Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kinukitty: Let's Get It On

Author’s Note: This is a bit of manporn based on anime. The characters, etc. are from Weiss Kreuz, which is owned by Project Weiss. Said characters are, I kid you not, beautiful young men who work as florists by day and as deadly assassins with kitty-cat code names by night.

The Weiss Kreuz team, clockwise from right, Ken, Yoji, Aya, Omi.

©Project Weiss

Aya was acting strange.

A redundancy, obviously, but it wasn’t like Yoji really had much to go on. He could look at Ken or Omi and identify a wide spectrum of moods and emotional states -- happy, sad, millions of gradations in between. He could look at Aya and determine, basically, fuck-all.



But tonight, for some reason, on this mission that wasn’t really any different from any of the other missions, there Aya was, waiting for him. Looking like that.

Yoji had been late getting to the check point. He’d run into a couple of unexpected minions on the way who’d required first eluding and then killing, which had slowed him down a bit. And there was Aya, with that look on his face.

It wasn’t the expression itself, of course. He’d looked worried, and then, catching sight of Yoji, hugely relieved. One might expect such a reaction under the circumstances -- but not from Aya, who was closed off and repressed and stoic in the extreme. Two expressions served for the vast majority of Aya’s interactions: a blank look that made it clear he was unaware of your existence at the moment; or kind of pissed, which covered most things from answering a polite question about whether there was any coffee to killing evil mad scientists and child torturers. They’d all come to realize that Aya wasn’t always pissed when he looked pissed, but nobody was able to reliably determine which occasion was which, so dealing with him was a total crap shoot.

“Are you all right?” Aya asked softly. There had even been some inflection coloring his usual near-monotone.

“Umm... yeah. I’m fine. Ran into a couple of emergency back-up goons, but, you know, the flies have been swatted.”

Aya looked at him assessingly, then nodded. “You look winded. Should we wait a few minutes before we head out?”

OK, now that was fucking peculiar. Aya was kind of a fascist about his mission plans, and he had a wicked sense of survival of the fittest. He wouldn’t actually leave anyone alone and possibly wounded out in the middle of nowhere just because they were late -- he probably fantasized about it, but he wouldn’t do it. At least, he hadn’t yet. But that didn’t mean he was necessarily interested in accommodating anybody’s smoking-related lung-capacity issues.

Yoji realized he was staring, with his mouth open. He closed it and nodded. “Yeah, I’d appreciate that. Thanks.”

Aya nodded and sat down on the ground. He pulled out his cell phone and called in with the information that the mission was complete and Yoji wasn’t dead after all. Then he just stared off into space, his jaw resting on his hand.

Yoji watched him a lot longer than it took to just catch his breath. He loved watching Aya -- did it whenever he got the opportunity and thought it wouldn’t get him killed. And Aya seemed awfully agreeable tonight...perhaps it was time to attempt conversation. After all, what would a man be if he didn’t try?

“Do you ever think about hell, Aya?”

Aya looked startled, then quickly regained control of his face and looked the other way. Well, that wasn’t an answer, but he wasn’t broadcasting “Die you stupid son of a bitch” vibes either, so good enough.

“You know, my mind wanders when I’m just sitting there, waiting to kill somebody. Are these guys going to hell? Am I? Because, well, I am killing the bad guys, so I’m not as bad as they are, right? But I’m still a killer, so.... Maybe Purgatory? Or is it Limbo?”

The sound of Aya’s voice surprised Yoji -- he’d kind of expected the redhead to just let him natter on until he ran out of steam. “Limbo is different from Purgatory. And the Pope got rid of Limbo. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

“What happened to the souls in Limbo, then?”

There was a brief pause while Aya presumably thought about it. “That’s why God invented Starbucks with WiFi.” Aya looked over at Yoji, face unreadable, and continued. “He moved all the souls from Limbo and put them in coffee franchises. They sit there from open to close generating spam, drinking overly harsh coffee and asking you day after day if you want to increase the size of your dick.”



“Huh? No what?”

“No, I don’t believe in hell.”

“Uh... No. Me neither, really. I was know...thinking about.... Is that the kind of stuff you think to yourself all the time when you’re not talking to us?”

Long pause. “Maybe.” Aya rose abruptly and started walking to the car. The “Shut up and leave me alone” light was lit.

Yoji followed him in silence, and the ride home was unmarred by banter. Aya parked, got out of the car and walked into the house without even looking in Yoji’s direction.

Alone in the dark garage, Yoji leaned against Aya’s Porsche and lit a cigarette, thinking about his enigmatic teammate. Aya rarely spoke, and never about himself. Yoji knew more about most of his customers at the flower shop than he knew about Aya, despite a certain amount of obsessive scrutiny. Shit, they didn’t even know his real name.

Yoji couldn’t help himself -- he was beginning to romanticize the situation. Here was this beautiful, brooding, deadly stranger in their midst, this alluring man...who was about as miserable and fucked up as it was possible for one person to be.

Something truly horrible had happened to Aya -- that wasn’t really even a guess, given where he’d ended up -- and it was about all he could do to contain the anger and pain between kills. Yoji theorized that Aya didn’t worry about having a name because he didn’t really think of himself as human. The person who’d had a name had been killed by whatever had destroyed Aya’s life and made him part of Weiss.

Well, everyone reacts differently to emotional devastation. Some people pick up the pieces and move on -- or so he had read. And some people don’t bother even trying to pick up the pieces and instead just storm out into the night, determined to make the world pay. Yoji crushed out the butt of his cigarette under his boot, chuckling at himself for waxing poetic. That was always a bad sign.

He had a thing for dark, brooding bad boys. Major angst was just a big turn on.

Shaking his head, he walked into the house, squinted against the bright light of the kitchen. Ken was still up and sitting at the table; he looked over at Yoji and put down his cup of tea.

“Hey, man, you all right? We were worried about you.”

Good old Ken. He really was a nice guy, for a vicious killer.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just ran into a couple more idiots whose night wasn’t going to be complete until I strangled them. Inconvenient, but whatcha gonna do?” Yoji got a beer from the refrigerator, lit another cigarette and sat down. The ashtray was on Ken’s side of the table, and he slid it over without even being asked.

“So,” Yoji said. “How come you didn’t wait for me? Don’t you love me any more?”

“It’ll never be over between us, blue eyes,” Ken said. “Oops.” Yoji rolled his eyes, which were undeniably green, and Ken smiled. “You know, Aya just announced that he was staying -- sorry, man, but it wasn’t even a choice. Let’s see, come home and take a nice shower, or get into an argument with Aya for the opportunity to wait around in the cold, dank woods for your sorry ass.... You can imagine what a quandary that was for me.” Then he narrowed his eyes slightly, looking at Yoji closely, wondering why he’d even ask about it. “Why, did he rip you a new one for something on the way home?”

“No, he didn’t say a word. I was just...I don’t know, actually. He just seemed a little...odd.” Yoji shrugged.

Ken nodded. “He went straight upstairs, and I thought he had kind of a weird look on his face. I don’t think he’s feeling well.”

“He said that?”

“Sure. After our emotionally wrenching but cathartic conversation about his fear of commitment.” Ken paused to take another drink of tea. “Then monkeys flew out of my butt.”

Yoji snorted. He put down the beer can and stubbed out his cigarette. “Fucking smartass,” he said, getting up. “I’ve had it -- I’m going to bed too. See you in the morning.”

Heading up the stairs, Yoji shook his head and thought that if any of his dreams tonight had anything to do with either winged simians or Ken’s ass, he was going to kick it for him tomorrow.

Yoji stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. Turing on the light, he jumped and choked back a little scream when he saw Aya, who was leaning against the sink and staring blankly into the mirror. Roused somewhat by the noise, Aya slowly turned around.

Deep breaths, Kudoh, deep breaths. “Aya, what the fuck are you doing?”

Aya stared at him uncomprehendingly. Lost.

“Aya.” Yoji walked over to him, started to put his hand on his shoulder, thought better of it. Whatever tender thoughts he’d been entertaining, Aya was crazy, and violent, and it was probably best to proceed cautiously. “Aya, you scared the shit out of me. You were standing in the dark, staring at yourself in the bathroom mirror. What the fuck is that all about?”

Aya was now staring sort of at Yoji’s chin, but really at something in another dimension. He looked like he might be broken.

Slowly, carefully, Yoji moved beside him and put his arm around his shoulders. Somehow, Aya was much smaller than he’d always seemed -- must be his battle aura, Yoji mused. Maybe this was the first time he’d turned it off.

“Hey, Aya.” He said it softly, almost a whisper. “What’s going on?”

“I....” Aya’s voice was so deep, so quiet. He paused, apparently unsure of how to proceed with a sentence that started with “I.” “Have you ever heard that legend, that if you stare into a mirror in the dark, you’ll see a demon?”

Yoji nodded.

“It’s true.” He smiled slightly, mirthlessly. “Same as when the light’s on.”


“There’ve been...on missions, people have called me a demon. And, you know, seemed to mean it. It’s not much of a leap, really -- the hair, the eyes...the blood...the sword....” He closed his eyes. “But it happened before, too. My parents always told me those people were just superstitious fools.” The eyes opened again, now staring at the floor. “Sometimes I wonder if they just recognized the signs.” He looked up at Yoji, gave him that sad little smile again. “That’s something I think about sometimes when I’m waiting around to kill somebody.”

Yoji pulled Aya against his chest and held him. “You’re sounding a little nuts, you know?” He said it gently. “This is what happens when you don’t talk to people. You lose track of things. You get fixated on stuff and you don’t have anybody to tell you it’s bullshit.”

Aya didn’t answer, but he didn’t move away. If it were anybody else, Yoji wouldn’t hesitate to describe this as clinging. It wouldn’t pay to get smug with Aya, though, even if he did seem small and fragile for once. So Yoji didn’t say anything else, just stood there holding him.

Finally, he leaned Aya against the sink and took one step back, still holding his shoulders. “Listen, Aya, I want you to come into my room and talk, OK?”

Aya nodded vaguely.

“Good. Now, if you could just...well, you know, I came in here for a reason....” He waited for Aya to remember where he was, but nothing happened. “Aya, I need to pee.”

Aya looked at him with those far-away eyes and nodded slightly, shifting his attention back to the weather report from outer space, moving away from the sink and out of the bathroom not at all.

Pondering the dilemma for a couple of seconds, Yoji decided it was really only a minor social nicety after all. He shrugged, went over to the toilet and did his business.

He leaned around Aya to wash his hands, then took his arm and tugged a little. “All right, let’s move.” He walked them to his bedroom, pulling his teammate behind him like a small child.

Yoji guided him into the room and sat him down on the bed with no trouble. He leaned the redhead back against the pillows and settled next to him, turned to look at him, Aya, who was so fucking beautiful and, for once, not resisting anything, not at all.

Aya looked at him with an expression Yoji had never seen. His mouth was open, his breathing heavy and a little ragged; his lips were lush and pouty and full of potential. As Yoji watched, mesmerized, the glazed purple eyes drifted shut, and long, sooty lashes rested softly against satiny white skin. Aya’s head fell back into the pillows, exposing his throat. His chest heaved.

Yoji’s meditation was broken by the urgent twitching of his cock, accompanied by the reflexive tremor of his fingers, desperate to know what the skin would feel like. He rearranged himself so he was sitting over Aya, facing him. He wasn’t quite close enough to rub himself against...but, oh God, almost. Yoji’s breath hitched as he reached over to brush the hair from Aya’s face, stroking that beautiful, flushed skin...which was burning hot to his touch.

Son of a bitch, he really was sick.

Well, that kind of sucked. He’d finally gotten somewhere with Aya, and it was only because the bastard was delirious with fever.

And, upon closer inspection, asleep.

Sadly, these realizations didn’t immediately deflate Yoji’s...hopes.

Cursing quietly to himself, Yoji moved to the end of the bed, staring at the door. He was actually a little tempted to use this opportunity to further study the subtleties of Aya’s appearance.... But that would be kind of creepy. Under the circumstances, and all. In fact, he really needed to get himself away from the source of the problem. Which was a bit of a dilemma, since he couldn’t exactly go back downstairs just at the moment -- “Hi, Ken, I’m back, and look at the size of this hard-on!”

Maybe he’d sneak back down the hall and have a nice wash up before...figuring out where he was going to sleep. No, no, that was the wrong direction. Definitely best to achieve detumescence before thinking about the possibility of lying next to Aya on his bed and sleeping next to him all night, maybe accidentally rolling over in his sleep and...

Yoji stood up determinedly and got himself back to the bathroom. He’d kind of wanted to take a shower anyway. Pondering whether it was going to be a cold or a hot one, he pulled his tight, mesh t-shirt over his head and stripped off his now-painfully tight leather pants, gasping softly when his erection sprang free. Hot it is, Yoji thought, adjusting the water temperature.

He avoided thinking directly about the Aya situation, letting his subconscious turn it over and examine it from every angle while he practiced shampoo meditation, keeping his conscious mind blank as he lathered, rinsed, applied a liberal handful of his ludicrously expensive conditioner, which he ordered a case at a time over the Internet because it kept his hair from frizzing under even the most difficult circumstances, no matter the humidity or number of assailants.

He leaned against the corner of the stall to let it sit for three to seven minutes and only then allowed himself to reconsider the redhead in his bed. It had been difficult to fantasize properly about Aya up until now because Yoji just hadn’t had enough to go on. He liked to get at least a gloss of realism going in his fantasies, but until tonight, he hadn’t seen anything close to sex from Aya.

Yoji’s hand slowly drifted over the muscles of his abdomen, down to his cock, which was straining eagerly. He pictured Aya’s gently parted lips, pictured his dick sliding between them. Aya would give good head, Yoji was sure of it. He had no idea if Aya had ever given head before, or even received it, or considered either possibility. But Aya was good at anything he tried to do, and all that iron self-control promised exciting things as far as being able to control his gag reflex. Yoji imagined Aya taking him down the back of his throat, that deep voice moaning against his eager, sensitized flesh.... He came hard and rested his head against the tiled wall, catching his breath.

Oh, that was so much better.

Now Yoji remembered how tired he was, and he finished his shower, dried off and got dressed quickly. He’d just go to bed and leave Aya alone -- the bed was roomy enough to give him all the space he could need, surely. Yoji didn’t like it, but he knew a dead end when he saw one. They’d talk about it in the morning.

Or maybe not. When Yoji got back to his room, Aya was gone.

Yoji was navel-gazing. Literally. He was standing in the middle of a dark, empty warehouse -- it was always a dark, empty warehouse -- waiting to deny some dark beasts their tomorrows, and they were late, and he was bored. He was slouched against a wall, looking down, admiring the play of moonlight over his fine, fine stomach muscles, bared by his tight mesh cut-off top. You’re fucking hot, Kudoh, he thought to himself, not for the first time. How can Aya see you like this night after night and refuse to admit his attraction to you? Or, as the case may be, fail to experience any attraction?

And, just like that, Yoji was plagued by a self-doubt. Perhaps Aya didn’t like men who dressed in tight mesh cut-off tops. It would be just like him, the repressed little....

“Hey, Ken,” he whispered.

What?” Ken hissed back.

“Do you think my outfit makes me look, you know -- cheap?”

Yoji could feel Ken’s incredulous stare piercing the darkness.

“I don’t know, Yoji,” he whispered. “Do you think this warehouse makes my ass look big?”

Tossing back an unseen glare, Yoji fell silent once more. Those fucking dark beasts had better make an appearance soon.

He looked up into the rafters, trying to catch a glimpse of Aya, although he knew it wouldn’t happen. God-damned megalomaniac and his penchant for grand entrances, anyway. The idiot was still sick and probably shouldn’t even be here, and if he had to be here, he should be on the fucking floor with the rest of them instead of crouching on a two-inch beam and trying to sink a story-and-a-half dismount with a 102-degree fever.

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a small fleet of expensive foreign cars pulling up near the door opposite him. He’d have an unobstructed line of sight when they came in. What was on the menu tonight, anyway? Oh, yeah, the politically connected pornographers making snuff films. Hard to feel especially bad for them.

There was supposed to be a first round of security sent in to make sure the place was safe, and the plan was for Weiss to remain undetected until the targets’ men signaled the main party that they could enter. The next bit would be the tricky part. They needed to wait until everyone was in the warehouse and the door was closed, then kill the first round of guards before the second group got settled. Yoji and Ken would do that, and Aya would take care of the rest, striking before the targets and their immediate bodyguards could figure out what was happening or get into a good defensible position. Yoji would help if needed, and Ken would cover the door to make sure nobody got out. If anybody did get past Ken, Omi was on guard outside to pick them off with darts. You didn’t want it spilling outside, though; it was messy. Too many variables.

There were four men in the advance group, and the two targets had four more guards around them. Yoji was concealed in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to fling his wire. He was a little wound up and pulled harder than he had to, parting the first head from the first set of sloping shoulders with hardly a sound. He unspooled a second length and repeated the treatment on the second guard just as he was turning to look at his colleague. Amazing how fast Yoji could pick them off when they just stood there and let him.

He readied a third length of wire. Ken, already moving to his post at the door, reached out his claws and separated someone from his spine. The survivors were beginning to register that there was a problem when Yoji’s third victim fell. At least three hands were reaching for guns.

Didn’t do them any good.

From where Yoji stood, it looked like one man just fell to the floor for no reason at all, followed seconds later by two heads that flew from their respective bodies, also seemingly of their own volition. He hadn’t seen or heard Aya leap from his perch, land behind the six men left standing, gut one of them as he rose, and behead two more with one stroke when he got to his feet. Now that he knew where the swordsman was, Yoji could see Aya finishing off one more with a nice, clean slice across the chest, thank God. Yoji had asked him to aim above the waist when he could -- the stench of a freshly disemboweled body was stomach-turning. Of course, whether this was just a coincidence or Aya was actually endeavoring to comply, Yoji couldn’t say.

Not counting the waiting, Weiss had done less than a minute’s work so far. The remaining men were starting to run for cover, and that needed to be nipped in the bud. Yoji killed the one he could reach with his wire, the one who was most exposed, and he knew Aya had reappeared in the darkness next to one of the targets when he saw the man drop.

Normally Aya would have no problem taking the last two himself, cutting them down before they had time to get off a good shot. But Yoji could already see that the swordsman was in trouble, not moving quickly enough to get out of the sights of the last body guard, who was squeezing the trigger as Yoji dove from his hiding place. He didn’t reach the bastard in time to throw off his aim -- he saw Aya stiffen when the bullet hit, although he didn’t fall. Which meant he wasn’t dead, but you couldn’t really draw any conclusions beyond that.

Yoji got to the son of a bitch before he could aim again and slammed into him with everything he had. It was enough, and he was satisfied to hear the meaty sound of the man’s head cracking against the concrete. Then Yoji wrenched the gun from his hand and shot him between the eyes just to make sure.

That chore finished, he jumped to his feet, scanning for the last target. He heard three cracks of gunfire in rapid succession and felt his stomach lurch when he saw Aya apparently running right into it. Aya was usually pretty good at calculating what he could get away with, but then again, he’d already proven that he was off his game tonight. Yoji’s relief was overwhelming when he saw Aya’s blade connect with the target, sending the shooting arm flying. His opponent’s head followed promptly.

Aya looked over, ascertained that Yoji was all right, and sat heavily on the floor. Ken took a step toward him, then saw Yoji’s signal that he should go outside instead. They had to know whether or not everything was clear before they could decide what to do about Aya’s injury. Besides, Yoji was going to be the one taking care of him, not Ken.

Yoji sank to his knees next to Aya, who was looking a little gray. “How bad?” he asked quietly.

“It’ll be OK,” Aya grunted, leaning one shoulder into Yoji to help him balance. “Left shoulder. Bleeding’s not too bad -- wait for Ken,” he directed as Yoji started unbuckling his coat to assess the damage.

Yoji pulled his hand back, slick with blood. He wiped it on the floor.

“I fucked up,” Aya said. He paused, then added, “Thank you.”

“You’re sick. I’m just glad you’re not dead.”

Ken and Omi ran in. “All’s clear,” Omi called out. “How’s Aya?”

“Able to answer for himself,” Aya said clearly, brows knit with irritation.

Yoji smiled to himself and shifted Aya gently, working the blood-soaked coat off his injured shoulder. “Omi, do you have a penlight? Shine it over here, would you? Ken, would you cut a shirt off one of those meat puppets so I can wipe away some of this blood?”

The wound glistening wetly in the small circle of light got to Yoji far more than any of the carnage around him. Putting his hand over Aya’s stomach to brace him, he pushed the redhead forward so he could see his back, looking for an exit wound. There was one; Aya’s breath caught when Yoji wiped away the blood to look at it. He pushed Aya back to his previous position.

“It went in under his collarbone and looks like it came out clean. Ken, get me some more cloth to pack around it and we’ll put his coat back on and get him out of here.”

Aya’s head rested against Yoji’s shoulder. His mouth was open and he was breathing deeply, eyes closed in concentration. It was a way to control the pain, Yoji knew, but holding him like this felt so intimate; he had the scent of Aya’s blood, and with all the adrenalin pumping through his system, he was getting confused. This felt like sex.

Yoji took a deep breath. This was so wrong. Aya was hurt and bleeding and Yoji was getting hard. He looked down at Aya’s face and was shocked to see the redhead staring back at him now, his expression heated. They held the look for several seconds, the connection electric. It was frantic and dangerous. The blood pounded in Yoji’s temples and for a terrifying moment he didn’t think he’d be able to hold himself back.

“Um, Yoji?” Omi asked, sounding concerned. “What are you doing?”

Yoji had been leaning forward for a kiss. He checked the move and tried to moderate the fierceness of his scowl when he looked up. “Nothing, Omi. Just making sure he’s not in shock.”

Aya closed his eyes and smiled for a moment, just the slightest bit.

Ken had returned with a couple of fistfuls of clean white fabric. Omi gestured for Ken to come closer. “Look at this,” he said. “What do you think?”

Ken glanced at the gory mess on Aya’s shoulder, then back to Omi. “I’m no ballistics expert, but it looks like he got shot.”

Omi huffed. “Ken, this is no time to....”

“Will you guys shut the fuck up and put some bandages on me so we can get the hell out of here?” Aya barked.

“I can’t believe you just said that to Mrs. Thoma.”

“Your concerns about customer service are touching, Yoji. I hate to tell you this, but we’re not really florists.” Ken calmly turned the “Open” sign around and locked the door. “As far as I’m concerned, as long as I don’t kill them, no harm, no foul.”

“She’s a nice old lady, Ken.”

“Are you high? She’s a God-damned bridge troll. And if you think this was bad, you should have heard what Aya said to her last week.”

Yoji pouted fetchingly -- not that it would do him any good with Ken. It was just second nature. “Well, it’s not much of a cover if we don’t have any business,” he muttered.

Ken rolled his eyes.

“So, what did Aya say?”

“I do not indulge in pointless negativity, Yoji. Suffice to say I was as impressed with him as I have ever been.” Ken picked up a broom and started sweeping. “And speaking of being impressed with Aya....”

Every muscle in Yoji’s body tensed as he waited for Ken to continue.

“That, Yoji, was your cue to admit that you’re gay as the day is long and you’re so hot for our fearless leader that you need a pair of those M.C. Hammer pants to camouflage your hard-on every time you think about him.”

Yoji made a small choking sound.

“Did you just yelp?”

“I am not....”

“Don’t even finish that sentence, you pathetic loser. I’ve been watching you dither long enough, Kudoh. The time has come for me to set your ass straight on this.” Ken wrinkled his nose slightly. “Well, that was obviously not phrased as well as it might have been. Anyway, we’re gonna talk. Now. Make with the dramatic confessions.”

Yoji closed his eyes, feeling the stirrings of a headache. He was not going to have this conversation. Not with Ken. Not now. He could handle this on his own.

Aw, what the hell.

“I didn’t realize I’d been so obvious.”

“Must have something to do with all the blood racing from your brain for your crotch every time he walks into the room,” Ken said, snorting.


“He’s hot. I know. You don’t have to be a fudge-packing ass pirate to see that -- and I mean that fudge-packing thing in the best possible way, you know.” Ken smiled good-naturedly. “He’s a good-looking guy. And he’s got that whole mysterious, strong, silent thing going on. Sort of a moodier Clint Eastwood, with more leather and buckles. So I get the basic gist of why you’re into him. What I don’t get is why you haven’t done anything about it.”

“How about the whole I don’t even know if he likes guys and he has a lousy temper and a sword thing? Do you get that?”

“Dare to struggle, dare to win, Yoji. You’ve been mooning over him for months now. And since your romantic attention span works in dog years, that’s almost a lifetime. Talk to him, for Christ’s sake.”

“Ken, he’s weird and ill-tempered. And I have to work with him no matter what. And since I rely on him to keep psychos and thugs from murdering me, I kind of don’t want him to hate me, you know? It just seems safer to cloud the issue a little at first. Leave myself a little room for frantic back-pedaling.”

“He’s not straight.”

“How the hell would you know that?”

“I’ve seen him looking at your ass, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t just in a ‘Wow, I can’t believe anybody would wear their pants that tight on purpose’ way, either. Straight guys don’t look at other guys’ asses.”

“I still...Really? He checks out my ass?”

“I think you’re making this harder than it has to be. He’s a guy, Yoji. Give him a few days to heal up, then go to his room and say, ‘Aya, I’m glad you’re feeling better. I think you’re hot. Let’s fuck.’”

Yoji stared at Ken disbelievingly. “Are you trying to get me killed? I’m not just going to spring something like this on him. He’s not really a ‘go with the flow’ kind of guy.”

“You’ve been practically stalking him for going on two months and this is the best you can come up with? You must have been a hell of a detective, Yoji.” Ken shook his head pityingly.

“Ken: Can’t live with him, can’t dip him in batter for tempura,” Yoji muttered. “I’m going upstairs now to take Aya something to eat. I am going to attempt to have a conversation with him -- a conversation that will not include the phrase “let’s fuck” -- and if I manage to get him to talk to me at all, I will consider myself lucky. I hope you can work past your disappointment in me.”

“Do what you want, man. But remember the old saying.”

“What old saying, ‘Nobody likes a smart ass?’”

“The old saying I refer to is: ‘He who farts around like a candy-assed loser never finds out if Aya can tie cherry stems into a knot with his tongue or not.’”

Yoji spared Ken one look of pure hatred before leaving the shop.

He stopped in the kitchen to make a cup of tea and grab a box of Pocky. He walked upstairs, head swimming with visions of things Aya might be able to do with his mouth.

He knocked on Aya’s door, not really expecting a response; Aya didn’t feel obligated to acknowledge anyone’s existence when he wasn’t in a common area. “I’m bringing you some food,” Yoji announced, letting himself in.

Aya was propped up in bed, staring at a wall. His complexion was pasty, he had dark circles under his eyes, and his hair was starting to look a little greasy. This would be a ghastly look on most people, but on Aya it was more of a heroin-chic thing.

Yoji put his offerings down on the nightstand. “Don’t know what’s going to happen about dinner yet, so I thought you could use a snack.”

Aya continued to ignore him.

“Hey,” Yoji said, gently tapping Aya’s good shoulder. “Drink your tea while it’s hot.”

This got Aya’s attention. He looked like he might argue, but then he just nodded. “Thanks.”

Yoji sat next to him on the bed and handed over the cup. “You look miserable. The next time you get really sick, you should wait a week or two before getting shot. Breaks up the monotony better.”

Aya’s eyes narrowed slightly, but Yoji was pretty sure this was one of those situations where Aya wasn’t as annoyed as he looked.

Yoji handed over the Pocky. He had gone out earlier to buy the vile wild yam flavor because he knew Aya liked it. Also, it was a pretty purple color that almost matched Aya’s eyes -- for some reason, that had seemed like an important detail at the time. Perhaps he was actually suffering from some sort of dementia.

Aya tore into the package. Yoji knew what he was in for and thought he was prepared for it -- Aya tended to suck distractedly on the stick before taking a bite. He’d watched this performance in fascination many, many times. Happy times.

It turned out that the maneuver actually packed a greater wallop when performed in bed.

Yoji shifted uncomfortably, looked around the room to distract himself.

He hadn’t really been able to work out a good game plan and was left with hoping talk would just materialize spontaneously, like flies from garbage. Not so. Aya didn’t seem particularly nonplussed about having him here, but neither did he feel any responsibility for entertaining him. Having eaten, the redhead resumed his important regimen of staring into space, which Yoji had interrupted earlier.

Well, there were worse things than sitting on Aya’s bed and watching him with impunity.

He watched the set of Aya’s face change slightly as his thoughts drifted, watched Aya’s eyes finally shift back to meet his. Watched him look away again.

“Don’t you even notice?” Yoji finally blurted.

Aya ignored him, then sighed, apparently changing his mind. He looked back and, with obvious reluctance, turned to face him. “What, you staring at me? Of course I notice.”

“So don’t you get it? Or don’t you care?”

Aya sighed again. “Neither.”


“I get it, and I do care. I just pretend not to notice because I don’t want to talk about it.”

Well, that was...huh. “Does it bother you?”

“No.” Aya looked away again.

“Aya, are you straight?” Yoji really didn’t expect an answer to that.

Brief pause. “No.”

“Do you mind me thinking about you that way?”

Slightly longer pause. “No.”

“Are you celibate?”

Aya closed his eyes for a moment, one of those “God, give me strength” expressions on his face. “No.”

“Well then, what’s the problem?” Yoji flashed a wicked smile. “Come on, Aya -- ‘We’re all sensitive people, with so much to give....’”

Aya glared. “Yoji, if you don’t stop singing, so help me God I’m going to kick your ass.”

Yoji grinned. “You don’t like Marvin Gaye, huh?”

“What part of ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ didn’t you understand?”

“Look, Aya, I....”

Now Aya looked pissed. “Is this some kind of a sport for you? Are you trying to get gigolo bonus points for picking up the most wretched asshole you can find?”

“Jesus, Aya, just how big of a jerk do you think I am?”

“Well, I’m obviously still evaluating that.”

“I’m not interested in tilting at windmills. As it were. I’m just trying to get to know you better.”


“Why what?”

“Why do you want to get to know me better?”

Well, this was obviously a trap, Yoji thought. Must proceed cautiously.... “Because you fascinate me. You delight me. And you make my dick dance.”

Yoji had never been able to resist pushing his luck. It wasn’t that he didn’t know when to stop, as most people assumed. He usually knew when to stop. He just didn’t want to.

Yoji wasn’t going to try to interpret Aya’s expression. He had not meant to declare himself -- bad Yoji. But having leaped naked into the void, he might as well plunge ahead.

“I don’t get it. I feel like we’ve connected a couple of times lately. But you mostly act like I’m not even there. What the hell?”

In the few minutes Aya took to decide if he was going to respond, Yoji started to feel guilty. This was somebody he supposedly cared about, and he looked miserable, and he was sick.... Just when Yoji had decided to leave him in peace, Aya started talking.

“I guess I understand the sex part -- not right at the moment,” he added, wiping his nose with a tissue. “But conceptually. The rest, though -- I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You aren’t familiar with fascination or delight?”

That got a heavy sigh. “Not really. See, that’s what I’m saying. What would you be fascinated by?”

“What? You’re beautiful, you’re interesting, and I’ve come to suspect you have a really twisted sense of humor, which is obviously something I appreciate since I haven’t killed Ken yet. Why wouldn’t I be fascinated with you?”

Aya looked frustrated. “Because there’s no there there,” he muttered.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

He sighed again. “I mean you’re making all that up. I look the way I look, and I kill people. That’s all there is. If you think you see anything else, you’re making it up.”

“Now I don’t understand. You only kill people, say, three nights a week at the most. Which means that the vast majority of your time is spent not killing people. And you exist when you’re not killing people; I know because I see you.”

This time Aya met his eyes. “I’m telling you that you obviously think you’ve figured something out about me that I keep hidden from everyone. And I’m telling you that’s bullshit. I don’t have a personality, Yoji. I’m just as two-dimensional as I seem. The only Zen you’ll find on the mountain is the Zen you bring to the mountain.”

That was so stupid and juvenile it took Yoji’s breath away -- well, except for the Zen thing, which was just kind of mystifying. “Aya, that was lame with an unbearable lameness. If you’re going to try to shake me off, you’re going to have to try harder than that.”

Aya was openly displaying a strange mix of emotions. He was annoyed, he was sad and -- Yoji would swear it -- he was amused. Yoji also realized that while Aya generally didn’t bother with facial expressions, his eyes gave a lot away.

“I used to have a personality,” he said. He spoke quietly, his voice strained almost to the point of hissing. “It got burnt away with everything else I didn’t need in order to be good at killing people. Bits and pieces of things I used to be still drift around, but basically, killing people is what I care about.”

Yoji snorted skeptically.

“You asked me about hell before. If hell existed, I’d be down on the seventh level, standing in a river of boiling blood with the other assassins, tyrants and war-mongers. Next door to the wood of the suicides. To the right of the scorching sand where fire rains down on those who committed violence against God and nature. In the same general area with the other blasphemers and sodomites, writhing in pain.”

Yoji stared.

“Dante’s Inferno. A book I was attracted to for obvious reasons.”

“Oh. Well, if there’s a special floor for assassins, I belong there too, right?”

Aya smiled slightly. “’Lusters are least dimmed among the damned.’ If you get placed by your most dominant trait, I think you’d be blowing around on the second level with the rest of the raging libertines, Yoji.”

“Least dimmed -- that would be level one, wouldn’t it?”

“Level one was Limbo. I told you, Limbo doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Aya, a man who’s analyzed which level of hell he’d be in according to Dante’s Inferno is not a man entirely lacking in personality.”

Staring down at his blanket-covered lap, Aya seemed to be struggling with something. And, just like that, the clouds parted and he smiled. It was a sheepish smile, but a real one. He muttered something Yoji didn’t catch.

“What did you say?”

Aya looked up. “I said I took a test on the Internet.”


“You answer questions and it tells you what level of hell you belong on.”

Yoji laughed. “That’s absolutely ridiculous. Can I play?

Aya shrugged. “Just Google ‘levels of hell.’ You’ll find it.” Then his smile widened. At Yoji’s curious expression, he shrugged and said, “That just reminded me of a trip my family took when I was little. We had my grandfather in the car, and we drove forever, like 500 miles. And every time anybody cut us off or was speeding or something, my grandfather would shake his fist and yell, ‘Drive like hell, you’ll get there!’” He shrugged again. “I told you, things shake loose sometimes.”

Oh, yes -- Houston, we have progress. Must keep him talking.

“Hey, I was wondering about that thing you said about demons. Do you remember? In the bathroom?”

Aya’s eyes widened slightly.

“OK, see, you thought something there. Tell me. Tell me what you just thought.”

Aya frowned. “I thought: ‘Oh. That really happened, then.’”

“Oh, yes. On a scale of one to ten, how indicative of your average level of angst was that?”

Aya hesitated, clearly not eager to answer the question. “Um, maybe a six?”

“Compared with an average, everyday angst level of what?”

Considering the question for nearly a minute, Aya finally said, “Three.”

“I see.” Christ, ten must be fucking terrifying. It was also kind of heartbreaking to realize the pain he’d seen that night was alarmingly close to Aya’s baseline. He didn’t want to talk about this anymore.

“So, Aya, tell me something about yourself.”

Aya looked confused. “I just did.”

Yoji sighed. “Toss me a bone, OK?”

“I’m allergic to cash register tape.”


“It makes the skin on my fingers peel and bleed. See?” Aya shoved his right index finger in front of Yoji’s face so he could appreciate that yes, the skin on Aya’s finger was in fact peeling and bleeding. Gross.

Kind of cute, though.

“Tell me something else.”

Aya frowned. It didn’t have its usual force; more of a pout, really. Also cute. Life was looking up.

“I hate Eric Clapton.”

“You...hate Eric Clapton.”

“That’s what I said.”

Yoji waited, then prompted, “Go on.”

“Well...the convenience store down the street. The last two times I went there, they were playing Eric Clapton. I refuse to go there now. The first time might have been carelessness, but twice -- that starts to feel like an intentional affront.”

“What song?”


“Which one is that?”

“’I don’t care what you do at night, oh, I don’t care how you get your delights; we’ll leave it alone, we’ll just let it be; I don’t love you and you don’t love me -- la la, la la la, la la...”

“Um, is it that song, or Eric Clapton’s entire ouvre?”

“It’s just Eric Clapton overall. He’s a bottom-feeding hack.”

Yoji nodded. Suddenly, he remembered something he was burning to know.

“Hey, what did you say to Mrs. Thoma?”


“Ken said you insulted Mrs. Thoma last week. What did you say to her?”

Aya appeared to be trying to pull up the information from his customer confrontation database. Admittedly, he did have a fairly adversarial relationship with a number of the people who came into the store.

“Did you use the C-word?”

“The what?” Aya’s brows knit in confusion, then dipped deeper in annoyance. “No!” Pause. “The C-word?” He rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ, Yoji,” he finally muttered.

“Well, what was it?”

“She complained that I wasn’t being responsive, and I told her I’d like to see things from her point of view but I couldn’t get my head that far up my ass.”

“Aya! She’s a nice lady!”

“She’s an abomination.”

“I don’t know why you and Ken hate her so much. I’ve never had any trouble with her.”

“Right. I guess your rapport with females over the age of 18 truly knows no bounds.” Aya suddenly found something on the blank wall across the room that captured his attention utterly.

Now, admittedly, Yoji’s brain was working at a bit of a delay in processing this bizarre and unexpected conversation. But his initial interpretation of that last comment was that Aya was jealous and that Aya hadn’t meant to let it slip that he was jealous. But of course that wasn’t possible. Was it possible?

“Aya, are you jealous?”

“No. ‘Disgusted’ would be a better word.”


“No.” Aya met Yoji’s eyes again, and this time he meant business. “I told you I didn’t want to talk about it. Thank you for the Pocky. Please leave.” Once again, the sheer force of Aya’s will and Aya’s hatred changed everything. Yoji felt himself getting up and heading for the door, almost as if he had no say in the matter.

And he didn’t. Aya wouldn’t say another word now if Yoji tortured him, and being in the same room with him was suddenly almost physically painful.

What the fuck? Aya really had been more approachable since getting out of the hospital last week -- Yoji had started to think he was making progress with the petulant, bi-polar son of a bitch. But maybe it had just been an unexpected side-effect of the antibiotics, or possibly a temporary change in barometric pressure. Or maybe Aya’s personal Glasnost just didn’t quite extend the length of an entire conversation.

Whatever. Melodramatic little prick.

Yoji slammed the door on his way out.

Yoji stormed into the kitchen.

“Ken, is it too much to ask for you to make a full pot of coffee in the morning instead of just two cups?”

“Oh, fuck off, Yoji. Make your own damned coffee.”

“Big words from a man wearing a plaid flannel dress.”

“It’s a nightshirt,” Ken said, mustering up admirable dignity under the circumstances. “It’s a man’s nightshirt.”

“Oh, of course. It’s a very manly dress.”

Aya, who had just appeared from out of nowhere -- as he tended to do -- cleared his throat. “I’ve always thought Black Watch was the toughest tartan, Ken.”

Ken opened his mouth, then closed it, staring at Aya. The room was silent. Was that a joke? Was he serious? No way to know. Aya had been making occasional efforts to interact recently, but it wasn’t like anybody could necessarily tell what he meant by them.

Aya nodded. “Black Watch is the black leather jacket of plaid. It’s much cooler than, say, Dress Campbell, or even Royal Stewart.”

And with that, he went upstairs.

Ken and Yoji looked at each other. “Yoji, do you think his fever’s back?”

“Hell, I don’t know.” Yoji shook his head. “But I guess if Aya thinks your dress is tough, Ken.... Well, he should know, right?” And Yoji followed Aya out of the kitchen.

He’d spent the last two days trying to figure out what to do about Aya. Yoji wasn’t stupid -- it was fairly clear what he should do. He should run. He should quit smoking so he could run faster. Aya could not possibly be worth the trouble, no matter how good he looked, no matter how good he might be in bed -- and while his proficiency in that regard was an educated guess, Yoji had to keep reminding himself it really was just a hypothesis -- no matter how cute it was when he rambled like a bag matter how good it felt to get a glimpse of what was going on in his head, or how those rare little smiles made the chocolate of Yoji’s savoir faire melt and expose the gooey caramel center that was his heart....

Yoji stopped in the hallway and actually banged his head against the wall. The mild pain cleared his head slightly, and he proceeded up the stairs. He hesitated outside Aya’s door, decided that knocking would only add another layer of frustration, and walked right in. Aya was sitting on his bed.

Yoji decided the best defense was a good offense. “What the hell is your problem, anyway?”

Aya just looked at him blankly, with a mildly quizzical set to his eyes, as if he were thinking, ‘Did that horse just speak? How curious.’”

“Could you at least pretend to be a human being for a few minutes?”

Aya’s eyes narrowed, the look shifting more to “that horse has annoyed me; perhaps I will kill it.”

Yoji closed his eyes and counted backward from 10.

They’d been avoiding each other since the last bout of emotional whiplash. It wasn’t difficult; Aya was spending most of his time in his room, so Yoji had just stopped making up excuses to go in there. Yoji’d hoped that, given a little time and distance, he’d finally be able to talk himself out of this terribly misguided crush. Failing that, he’d hoped he’d at least cool down enough to avoid a potentially dangerous outburst.

Two strikes; one more and he was out.

He sat on the edge of the bed and decided to try again from another angle.

“Here’s how bad I have it for you. Yesterday I started humming ‘Hello’ when I walked past your doorway. You know, that Lionel Ritchie song? ‘I can see it in your eyes, I can see it in your smile, You’re all I’ve ever wanted and my arms are open wide.... Tell me how to win your heart, for I haven’t got a clue....’”

Aya looked absolutely dumbstruck.

Yoji began to wonder if “Hello” might have been a tactical error.

“Aya, I’m beginning to feel pretty exposed here. Could you try to say something?”

After several more long, unnerving moments of utter disbelief, Aya finally threw back his head and laughed.

Yoji sighed in relief.

Wiping his eyes, Aya tried to stifle the last of his giggling. “You are such a goofball.”

Goofball...not as good as sex god, but better than dead man. “Aya, listen. I know what you were doing the other day. I’m not actually even taking it personally. But I’m fundamentally a pretty lazy person, and I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with you clouding up and raining all over me every time we try to have a conversation. So let’s just be honest with each other, OK?”

Aya’s smile faded. “And what do you think I was doing the other day?”

Eye on the prize, Kudoh, eye on the prize. “I think you were enjoying being with me, and then you got freaked out about it and decided to scare me off.”

After a long, ominous pause, Aya sighed. “Close enough.”

Yoji remembered having read somewhere that the most important thing in training an animal is immediate positive reinforcement. This was definitely a Milkbone moment.

“As a reward for your honesty, I’d like to give you a backrub.” At Aya’s dubious expression, Yoji said, “Oh, stop it. I’ve made it clear that I want to get my hands on you. You’ve made it -- well, not clear, obviously, but close enough -- that you’re at least willing to entertain the idea of having my hands on you. It’s just a backrub. Lie down.”

Aya stared at Yoji for several seconds, squinting in concentration. Then he lay down on his stomach, moving carefully, obviously having trouble with his shoulder and not bothering to hide it. A new level of intimacy?

Well, smack my face and call me Irving, Yoji thought to himself. He climbed atop his unexpectedly tractable teammate and got started without further ado -- when you’ve got your enemy in your sights, you pull the trigger. Or throw your wire or reach out with your knife-festooned baseball mitt or generally cause death with whatever improbable and archaic weapon you have at your disposal, if you happen to be part of Weiss. Whatever...Yoji believed in seizing the day.

And he knew for a fact that he was good at this massage thing. Giving a backrub, in his experience, was kind of like giving head -- everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Yoji excelled in both areas because he was not only willing to do what needed to be done, he really enjoyed the ride.

Yoji slid his hands under Aya’s loose white t-shirt, bunching it up over his upper back and running his hands up and down the skin he’d exposed. He had to pause and take a deep, shaky breath, then another when Aya shifted beneath him, flexing his hips ever so slightly against Yoji’s cock. It had to be on purpose -- unless it wasn’t. Keep your wits about you, Yoji, he chided himself.

Yoji kneaded and prodded and pulled, trying to loosen the muscles knotted up from Aya’s wound. And from Aya’s being Aya. Occasionally he’d allow himself a few moments of simply stroking Aya’s satiny skin. Yoji loved giving a massage, feeling his partner’s skin, the muscles beneath, all resistance finally giving way beneath his questing fingers.

However, Aya wasn’t making the appreciative little sighs and moans Yoji was used to under these circumstances, nor was he reduced to a pile of pliant, turned-on manflesh beneath Yoji’s knowing hands.

“Aya, what’s going on with you right now?”

“You’re, you know...I’m not used to full scrotal contact with my coworkers. It’s kind of freaking me out."

“I’m getting the feeling you aren’t fully committed to relaxation,” Yoji said.

Aya shot him a look over his shoulder.

“Come on, Aya. Relationships are built on trust.”

Aya shot him another look. “I like to maintain a certain level of surface tension. I’m not sure what would happen if I fully relaxed.”

“Work with me here, Aya.” Yoji shifted further down and, pulling down the waistband of Aya’s loose flannel pants, started rubbing low on his back. Eliciting a definite flinch of pain.

“Am I to assume you have some soreness in the upper butt region?”

“Don’t assume anything about my butt, Kudoh,” Aya said dangerously.

Yoji sighed. He looked down at the back beneath him and thought that it was indeed beautiful, and that he’d love nothing more than to make it arch in passion, or perhaps drag his lips and tongue slowly down Aya’s spine, all the way down.... Well, now he was full-on hard. And Aya had to be able to tell. But he wasn’t complaining, and where there weren’t tears and recriminations, there was hope.

Yoji kept at it until his arms were sore and his own back and shoulders ached. But the man beneath him resisted every effort.

“Aya, are you OK? I mean, I know you’re the angstiest person in the world, but surely you could have loosened up at least a little bit. I’m rubbing your back, not taking out your appendix.”

Another long pause, then a soft, gusty sigh into the pillow. “My head is throbbing, my shoulder aches, my stomach hurts, I think I’ve developed carpal tunnel from repetitive killing, I’m hungry, and I’m generally dissatisfied with the prime minister’s position on monetary policy.”

“Otherwise, though, you’re fine.”

“The list was in no way meant to be comprehensive. Now get the hell off me before I throw you off and tear my stitches.”

So much for the inevitability of the sexy backrub trick. Yoji really was beginning to feel less confident about his standing as the reigning pompatus of love, and it annoyed him. He took off his shirt lay down beside Aya, saying, “OK, now you’ve made me tense.”

Yoji caught a glimpse of Aya’s face -- confused. Well, that was satisfying, at least.

“It’s your turn to rub my back. It’s a ‘you break it, you bought it’ kind of thing.”

He lay there for several minutes. He was beginning to feel like an idiot. When, unbelievably, Aya got up and kneeled over Yoji’s lower back. Damn, Yoji thought, I should have started giving him direct orders long ago.

Aya’s hands rested on Yoji’s shoulders, his touch somewhere between tentative and tender. His fingertips stroked the nape of Yoji’s neck, over and over until Yoji felt himself getting hard again. The fingers moved to the sensitive skin just behind Yoji’s ears, moving in longer strokes, but just as delicate, before sliding up to trace soft circles over his temples. Aya was now laying over him, his breathing soft and warm against Yoji’s back. There was a brief touch of lips that Yoji found unbelievably hot.

Aya caressed Yoji’s face as he moved his hands down to the blond’s shoulders, sitting up again in one smooth movement and applying increasing pressure, still using just his fingers. It felt surprisingly sensual, although the technique was probably born of necessity, since Aya wasn’t supposed to use his left shoulder.

Yoji shivered with a sudden ripple of pleasure, thinking of how strong Aya was. And heavy. Despite the loss of contact, it had been something of a relief when Aya had sat up again. All that muscle.... It was exciting to be pinned beneath that strength. Was that something Aya had intended him to be thinking about? Yoji moaned softly and was rewarded with a hitch in Aya’s breathing. Maybe he needed to be on top? That would figure, actually. Well, that wasn’t how Yoji had envisioned things, but he could roll with the punches.

Yoji had briefly entertained the idea of holding out on Aya, but in reality, that had never been an option. As Aya’s fingers slowly worked all the muscles in Yoji’s neck, shoulders, and upper back, Yoji had become utterly relaxed and thoroughly aroused. Which was a hell of a lot better than trying to teach Aya a lesson, anyway. If such a thing were even possible.

Aya scooted backward, slowly and deliberately rubbing his erection over Yoji’s body as he resettled on the blond’s upper thighs. His hands progressed, maddeningly slowly, over Yoji’s lower back and, finally, to his ass, which he played with for long enough to turn Yoji’s brain to complete mush. Aya’s fingers alternated between deep, strong strokes and gentle, sensual caresses. Yoji cursed his lack of foresight in not changing out of his jeans and into something more accessible.

And then Aya just stopped. He got off Yoji and sat back against his pillows.

Yoji groaned. “Aya, are you trying to prove a point here?”

“No. I was just...done.”

“You’re just done?” Yoji rolled over on his side to stare at the redhead, feeling aggrieved and petulant. “That is so unfair. You totally upped the ante, and now you’re not going to follow through?”

Aya looked tired. “I know. I’m sorry.” He looked pointedly down at his lap, drawing Yoji’s attention to the fact that he was no longer remotely hard. “I’ve, um...never done it with anyone I Or know, really.” He shrugged his good shoulder. “I try to keep my distance.”

Yoji realized it might be appropriate to offer some kind words of understanding, but Aya didn’t really seem particularly distressed about it, and, well, Yoji’s language centers were working with a skeleton crew because all his blood had rushed to his cock.

“Would you mind if I jacked off?” Yoji asked.

Aya stared at him. “We’ve definitely crossed a line, haven’t we?”

“Uh...yeah. Kind of.”

Aya sighed again, then nodded. “I just wanted to, you know, understand the mission parameters.”

He appeared to be thinking about something. Something else. Something far away. Eventually, his gaze shifted and he was watching Yoji, his head cocked slightly to the side.

Yoji tried again.

“Aya, you make me so hard.” He stroked himself, slowly, and looked up to see Aya avidly watching the movement of his hand. “I need to come, Aya. OK?”

Aya seemed a little out of it, and his breathing sounded harsh in the quiet of the room. He nodded, still staring at Yoji’s crotch.

Yoji unzipped his pants and pushed them down a bit on his hips, allowing his erection to spring free. He gave it a couple of good tugs, watching Aya the entire time. The redhead’s eyes were glazed.

He rubbed the head of his cock with his thumb, spreading around the bead of moisture leaking out. Aya distractedly brought his hand up to his face and bit gently on his knuckle.

Oh, this was working.

Yoji stroked his sac, rolling his balls between his thumb and fingers. Aya watched his every motion as if trying to memorize them.

“I do this all the time in my room, thinking about you.” Yoji’s voice was deep and rough. Aya’s eyes widened. His face looked flushed.

“I wonder how you would do it. I see how you hold your sword, and I wonder if that’s how you’d hold my dick. You have such a good, firm grip....” Yoji started stroking himself. “Your hands are so strong....” He shivered, then reached a rhythm he knew would bring him off soon. The idea of coming in front of Aya was....

“Shut up and come,” Aya said.

Yoji closed his eyes and spurted all over his stomach. He kept his eyes closed as he tried to catch his breath. He opened his eyes to find Aya still watching avidly. Looking like he’d regained his interest.

Aya perfunctorily handed him a box of tissue. Yoji mopped himself up quickly, then checked to make sure the capricious redhead was still with him.

He cupped Aya’s erection, stroking through the thin, loose fabric of his pants, looking up to see if Aya’s face was as happy with this development as his cock seemed to be.

He was disappointed to see the eyes closed, having hoped Aya might be the kind to watch everything unabashedly. This was good too, though: eyes closed in rapt concentration, head thrown back, mouth open, tongue unconsciously tracing his teeth....

Yoji leaned down and put his mouth over Aya’s cock, running his lips up the length and sucking the head through the cloth. Aya gasped and tangled his fingers in Yoji’s hair, which Yoji also took for a good sign.

Until Aya pulled the hair viciously and pushed him off the bed.

“What the hell?” Yoji asked from the floor.

Aya’s breathing was fast and harsh. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. I didn’t ask you to come after me, though. And it isn’t like you didn’t already know I’m defective.”

Yoji opened his mouth to counter, but Aya cut him off.

“I hate you for caring about me. The idea that anybody could know what I am and like me anyway, it’s...repulsive.”

By the end of his little speech he had his breathing back under control, along, apparently, with the rest of his body.

Why the hell, if there was anybody else left on Earth, had he chosen this completely irrational freak to fall for? Yoji adjusted himself into a comfortable cross-legged position and looked up at the source of all his troubles.

“Aya, you just have to let yourself go a little bit.”

“Believe me, Yoji, nobody wants that to happen. It will anyway, someday, but nobody will be happy about it.”

“I’m beginning to think you have a lot invested in being the most fucked up person in the world.”

“Everybody needs structure.”

“Looks to me like you’re afraid. Do you think I’ll, you know, love you and leave you?”

Aya snorted, then shook his head. “You may believe your own press, Yoji, but I don’t. If anything, it’s more the opposite, you gluey tart.”

Well, that was offensive. Wasn’t it?

“Wait a minute. You were jealous.”


“Before. You weren’t just jealous -- you were jealous of Mrs. Thoma. A grating 60-year-old woman with three chins and more moles than you can shake a bake at.”

“I thought she was a ‘sweet old lady.’”

“See, you do remember!”

Aya frowned.

“So, you hate me, you’re jealous, or you’re afraid I won’t give you enough space? Which one?”


Yoji cocked his head, started to ask the question, then stopped himself.

“Right. Let’s start with jealous. Why? Why are you jealous?”

Aya hesitated, obviously reluctant to continue the conversation. “You flirt with everyone. Fucking everyone. Mrs. Thoma. Multitudes of mindless, giggling school girls. Ken. Omi, for Christ’s sake. Everyone.” He paused, then added, very quietly, “Everyone but me.”

Oh, baby.... Now that was heartbreaking. Or it would be, if it weren’t a well-executed but still obvious diversionary tactic.

Aya saw the awareness in Yoji’s eyes and lifted his head, jaw set defiantly.

“Yet at the same time you hate me and think I’m...gluey.”

Now Aya smiled, just one corner of his mouth quirking up. He nodded. “What can I say? I worry about lots of things. I like to feel like I have all the bases covered.”

Yoji shook his head. You just had to admire it, really, the depth and breadth of the craziness.

Then he grinned. “You like me, though. You said so.”

Aya looked startled. “When?”

“A little while back. You cited it as the cause of your erectile dysfunction. It stuck with me.”

Aya was beginning to look a little hunted.

“I’m going to get up now and sit back on the bed. If you attack me again I’ll fight back.” He plopped down next to Aya, who skittered a few inches away, avoiding contact.

Yoji looked at him, then smiled. Fucking hell. He was perfect.

“Aya, you’re stubborn and irksome and I’m pretty sure clinically insane.” Aya was starting to frown. “What can I say? I like that in a crush object.”

Aya shifted to the end of the bed.

“Look, I’m not that bad. Really. Give me a chance. Seriously, what’s the problem?”

“Yoji, I don’t know what I want, all right?”

“Free your ass and your mind will follow.”

Again with the staring.

“Give it up -- if you weren’t into me you’d have disposed of my lifeless corpse by now. Let’s just fuck already.”

Yoji couldn’t control his sense of triumph. This was it -- he’d done it. He’d gotten through to Aya.

He saw the fist coming but didn’t have time to react before it struck his chin from the side with surprising force. Part of his brain managed to notice that he really was seeing stars, but then everything just turned black.

Yoji was disoriented. Something was poking at him, waking him up. And while that sort of thing usually pissed him off, he was really uncomfortable, so waking up didn’t necessarily seem like such a bad idea, now that he thought about it. He opened one eye and saw Ken staring down at him from a great height. What the hell?

“The road to love is paved with toads,” Ken said, reaching out a hand to help Yoji up.

Oh, yeah. It all came back to him.

He let Ken haul him off the floor of the hallway, where he’d been lying in front of Aya’s door.

“Not the most dignified situation, huh?” Ken offered conversationally, following Yoji into his room.


“So, he turned you down, then?”

Yoji narrowed his eyes in annoyance.

Ken inspected the impressive bruise on Yoji’s jaw. “Well, you know, for Aya, that could be foreplay.” He held up his hands in supplication. “Sorry.”

Yoji muttered darkly.

“This probably isn’t the best time to remind you that you have a surveillance mission with him tonight, I guess.”

“And yet you do so with such ill-concealed glee.”

Ken smiled. “Don’t worry, Yoji. You’ll get through it. It’s not like you’ve never been mad at him before.”

“This is different. This time it’s personal.”

“Theoretically, I know I shouldn’t pry. But what the hell happened?”

“Fuck you, that’s what happened.”

“You may as well just tell me now and spare us both the trouble of making me goad you into it.”

“I tried to talk him into having sex with me. He declined. In his own inscrutable, violent way.”

“What did you say to him?”

“Actually, I got desperate enough to try your suggestion. I just asked him to fuck.”

Ken raised his eyebrows. “Well, they can’t all be gems. I really would have expected Aya to appreciate the direct approach, though.”

“Not so much, it looks like.”

“Maybe it was your delivery.”

Yoji shot him a look of death.

“Well, you know the old saying.”

Yoji raised an eyebrow.

“Aya’s nuts. Go figure.”

Yoji was thoroughly disgruntled. He was sitting in a white delivery van, parked amid a flock of other white delivery vans in the parking lot of a building way the hell out on the outskirts of nowhere, waiting. Just sitting there for hours and hours and hours. Silent hours. Tense, uncomfortable hours. Watching to see who was going to show up, if anyone.

At least he had the passenger seat, since Aya had insisted on driving. Yoji was certain it was safe to read things into that, Aya always having to drive.

Yoji had volunteered for this stupid mission several days ago, when he’d still had hope. Aya had accepted it because it was all he could do until he healed more, and Yoji had accepted it because he would have actually paid for the opportunity to sit next to Aya all night. It had sounded good at the time.

Yoji’d had plenty of time to ruminate on how big a mistake he’d made in falling for his grim, challenging teammate. It was like being addicted to crack, but less satisfying. Enough was enough, though -- Yoji drew the line at being sucker-punched and left for dead in the hallway. He was going to move past this debacle and...something....

He kept getting distracted by Aya’s profile in the moonlight, which he kept accidentally staring at. Aya’s skin looked luminous, and although the drama of his coloring was masked, that face was more than enough to carry the show.

Aya wore his usual blank, brooding expression -- cold bastard. Cold, moody, sadistic bastard. He could have just said no, couldn’t he?

The real question, of course, was why he hadn’t just said yes. Or why he’d rescinded his yes -- because he might not have said it out loud, but he’d certainly consented.

This mission was going to drive him crazy. Nothing was happening, nothing was going to happen, and Aya was going to make them sit here staring silently at that damned building all night.

“How would it work?” Aya asked, apropos of nothing.

“Um -- what?”

“How would it work?” He turned to face Yoji, looking like he expected an answer.

Yoji sighed. This was the kind of thing that kept drawing him back in. Aya just didn’t understand the rules of social interaction. He was a clueless, sociopathic dork and, God help him, Yoji couldn’t resist that to save his life.

“What are we talking about, Aya?”

Aya frowned, leading Yoji to a sudden realization about how far he’d really come. Fairly recently, he’d have taken the frown to mean that Aya was irritated at Yoji for being too stupid to read Aya’s mind; now he knew the frown was an expression of Aya’s intense annoyance at not being able to express himself. Heartening, that.

“Us,” Aya finally said. “I can’t imagine it at all. And when I can’t picture something, it makes me...uneasy.” Seeing Yoji’s expression, he added defensively, “Look, it keeps me alive.”

Yoji shook his head, smiling. “You know, there would be nudity, sweat, gasping and moaning....”

Aya favored him with a fairly patient version of his “Christ, you’re stupid” look. “The sex isn’t what I’m worried about, Yoji.”

Meaning the part he was worried about was -- what? Yoji frowned.

Aya waited for his answer, apparently thinking he’d made himself clear.

“I’m sorry, Aya, I’m still not quite following you.”

Brows knitted in frustration, Aya tried again. “What I don’t understand is everything but the sex. From what you said before, you want more than just sex, right? That’s what that bizarre musical interlude was about, wasn’t it?”

Yoji nodded mutely.

“Well, what would that part be like? The non-sweaty part?”

A lot like this, Yoji was beginning to realize. And the thing was, he was pretty sure he’d be able to deal, if he could get some sex thrown in.

Aya frowned, apparently having an insight of some sort. “I should have fucked Masaki,” he muttered to himself.

“Did you mean to say that out loud?”

Aya looked startled.

“That’s what I thought. You already realize you’ll have to tell me -- I see it in your eyes.”

Aya sighed. “When I was 17, I started hanging out with this girl. Weird girl -- she’d suddenly decide her chakras were out of whack and get on the floor and do yoga. Anyway, we went out to clubs together, and she introduced me to her friend Masaki. He really -- did something for me. It was the first time I’d ever felt this, you know, overwhelming attraction to someone. Well, one night we were all out dancing, and Masaki took off his shirt, and it... moved me. Things were progressing, but my friend pulled me away and told me I was absolutely not allowed to sleep with him. He was trouble or something.” Aya snorted. “I went along with it to avoid a fight; I figured, well, tomorrow’s another day. Of course, it turned out there never was another day....”


“No. Things happened, I turned in my humanity to become a paid killer, yada yada.” He shrugged casually.

“Ah. And I assume this anecdote is connected in some way to the situation at hand?”

“Well, if I’d just slept with him that night, I’d know how to handle this.”

Right. Just a couple of dots left to connect, Yoji thought to himself.... Oh! He meant that he was also overwhelmingly attracted to Yoji! Now, that was helpful; it’s not like it really showed or anything. And there was nothing to be gained from pointing out his inconsistencies; the road into Aya’s pants was filled with maddening switchbacks and sharp, dangerous curves.

“Surely I’m not the only person who’s rocked your world since then?”

Aya frowned again. “I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“Damn it, Aya, this is so unfair. You started it.”

“And I’m ending it. We’ve come full circle.’

Yoji squeezed his eyes closed, trying to ease the pressure building inside his skull.

Aya watched him dispassionately. “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”

Yoji nodded. So true. He looked away from his tormentor and tried to summon up some of that righteous indignation he’d been stoking earlier, but all he had was an impossible, all-consuming desire to connect with this sexy, deranged lunatic.

Then inspiration struck. His error was in trying to reason with Aya, who was obviously not on consistent speaking terms with reason. Aya was erratic, unbalanced and confused. He was also all about action, not words. What was needed was a demonstration, not a lecture. Yoji turned back to him and smiled. “It would be like this.”

He cupped Aya’s face in both hands and kissed him tenderly. He slid one hand into Aya’s hair, fingertips stroking the back of his head. For a moment he fancied he was touching Aya’s tumultuous thoughts -- which he suddenly envisioned as a tangled mess of black spiders. He jerked his hand down to the back of Aya’s neck, forcing himself to move past that bit of imagery.

It was easier to do when Aya started kissing back. Yoji pressed his teeth into Aya’s lower lip, eliciting a soft sigh. Yoji leaned closer and stroked the corner of Aya’s mouth with his tongue. Aya parted his lips, but Yoji held back -- Aya needed to learn about tenderness, and nobody was getting any younger.

Yoji knew he was getting somewhere when Aya crawled into his lap, straddling him. Yoji slid one arm around Aya’s waist and slid his mouth over Aya’s jaw and down his neck, pressing his lips over Aya’s frantically pounding pulse. It made his chest ache. Yoji unbuttoned the first four buttons of Aya’s shirt and slid it back over his shoulders, moved his hand under the cloth to feel the hard, sleek shoulder muscles and the solid, flat planes of his chest. Yoji kissed down the sternum and rested his head against the ribs, listening to the pounding of Aya’s heart. Aya rested his head on Yoji’s shoulder.

They sat that way for a long time.

“Does that answer your question?”

“Yes,” Aya whispered.

“So, what about the surveillance?”

“Fuck the surveillance.”

Aya was blowing off a mission. Yoji was pretty sure that was the first horseman of the Apocalypse.

What in the name of hell was going on with him? Yoji wanted to talk, but he hesitated because talking to Aya always led to grief, and he felt so good right now. His brain was just deciding to leave well enough alone when his mouth said, “So, why are you giving in now?” Stupid mouth. It did some good work occasionally, but he knew this was a mistake from the first syllable.

Aya barely hesitated. “I’m desperate.”

Yup -- mistake. “That isn’t very flattering.”

“It is what it is.”

Yoji raised an eyebrow, hoping Aya actually cared enough about him to explain -- he was sick of begging.

Aya shifted as if to move away, but then decided to stay where he was, speaking into Yoji’s neck. “Every time I try to explain myself, I sound like a melodramatic, overwrought idiot.”

“You have a unique rhetorical style, but I wouldn’t say you sound like an idiot. Besides, we live kind of melodramatic, overwrought lives. And on top of that, I’m frantic to find out anything at all about what you could possibly be thinking. So don’t worry ‘bout me.”

Aya snorted in irritation, but he tried again. “It’s kind of like being in a blizzard. But with, you know, self-loathing and hatred instead of snow. You can’t find your way and eventually you’re tempted to just lie down and let it cover you over,” he said, putting a finger to his temple. “I need a way out,” he muttered.

“Well, that’s actually much better. I can help you with that.”

“But you want...I don’t have anything for you. I just want....”

“It’s OK,” Yoji interrupted. “It’s enough.” He pushed at Aya’s chest. “Get off for a minute.”

Aya complied and Yoji ducked through the curtain behind them, into the back of the truck. “Come on,” he added when Aya didn’t immediately follow.

Yoji lay down on the floor. “Come here.”

Aya cocked his head. “I thought you wanted to fuck me.”

“You don’t strike me as much of a bottom, Aya.”

That got a small smile. “No.”

“Thus....” Yoji gestured to his on-the-floorness.

“It’s complicated.”

“I’m sure it is.”

“That’s what I want this time.”

Yoji sighed inwardly. Everything, every last fucking little detail, was always going to be a battle with this one. “Aya, no way am I going to let you turn this into some kind of punishment.”

Aya sat next to Yoji. “I hadn’t thought of that. That’s good.”

Yoji sat up. He felt like he was on the third leg of a marathon. “OK, then -- why?”

“Isn’t it enough that you get what you want?”


“All this communication is spoiling you. If I explain this, will you shut up and fuck me?”

Yoji nodded mutely. He was so hard he could barely think, yet he knew better than to relax his guard.

“I want to try giving up the control, to see if that will...give me some peace.”

“Why haven’t you tried this before, then?”

“I told you.”

What? When? Yoji struggled with the limited facts at hand. He finally decided Aya must mean the Masaki thing. “That’s flattering, I think. What else?

“I trust you.”

Better. Yoji just wished he didn’t still feel as if he were sailing into the part of the map that said “Here be monsters.” Because Aya was struggling with something; it was obvious from the look in his eyes and the twist of his mouth.

“Aya, do you actually want to do this?

“Yes,” Aya finally said. Quietly, seriously, like he was accepting a death sentence.

Yoji was torn. He felt things for Aya -- important things he was willing to acknowledge, if not examine closely. He didn’t want to add to Aya’s state of overwhelming wretchedness. On the other hand, enough was enough. This approach/avoidance behavior was beginning to really fuck with him. There was no way Yoji was going to walk away without some kind of sex taking place. But....

This wasn’t how he wanted it to happen.

“Aya, you say ‘yes, yes,’ but there’s ‘no, no’ in your eyes.”

Aya stared at him in that way he had of turning to face a person, making eye contact, then cocking his head slowly and staring as if he were trying to puzzle out what kind of big, ugly bug he’d discovered. Finally, he nodded to himself. “You think I know what I’m doing and just choose not to let you in on it.”

Yoji sensed trouble but nodded anyway.

Shaking his head vigorously, Aya said, “I have no idea what I’m doing. Less than none. My uncertainty about what I’m doing is so intense that it sometimes rips time and space.”

“Oh, come on -- you know if you want sex or not.”

“No, I don’t. Not always. That’s what I’m saying. Even with something that basic, I obsess and ponder and fret and worry insanely until I have no idea what I really think or feel.”

It was Yoji’s turn to stare.

Aya’s face lit up with triumph. “Now you get it.”

“I’m dumbstruck. I mean, you certainly seem to know what you’re doing on a mission. Or in the flower shop, even.”

Aya had warmed to his topic and spoke animatedly. “That’s different. I understand killing. Killing makes sense to me. Human emotions and relations -- much less clear.” He paused, thinking. “And at the flower shop, I just fake it. It’s not like it matters, anyway.”

“That’s what Ken says, too. The flower shop is....”

“Don’t lecture me about the God-damned flower shop, Yoji. Are you going to fuck me or not?”

Yoji still wasn’t entirely happy with the situation, but he was also keenly aware that he might not get another chance. “Yeah. But you’re going to like it.”

Aya smiled and got into his lap again. He started sucking on Yoji’s earlobe, then whispered, “I’m willing to like it.”

“You promise?”

“If you’re as good as you say you are.”

“I’m better,” Yoji murmured, kissing him fiercely.

“Show me.”

“I’m trying.” Yoji grabbed the hair at the back of Aya’s head with one hand and held his jaw in place with the other, redoubling his kissing efforts. He just needed Aya to lose track for a few minutes.... If he retained access to his brain, he’d probably argue the whole time. Or worse.

Aya seemed to like the rough treatment, so Yoji stuck with what worked, throwing him to the floor and climbing on top of him.

“Aya,” he breathed.

Aya made a noise deep in his throat.

“Aya,” Yoji whispered again, this time kissing the skin just beneath Aya’s jaw, moving his lips over his Adam’s apple, down to the hollow along his collarbone.

“Please let me do this,” Yoji whispered, hands moving from Aya’s shoulders to his chest and down his stomach, then touching the bare skin under his shirt. “And don’t hate me for it.” One hand slid around to the small of Aya’s back, while the other -- slowly, unsteadily -- reached for his dick. “You’re hard.”

Aya moaned quietly.

“You want me, don’t you. Say it. Just this one time, tell me you want me.”

“Yes,” he said, gritting the word out, barely loud enough to hear.

Yoji groaned. “What do you like?”

Aya shook his head impatiently. “You’re supposed to be topping -- figure it out.”

Yoji growled and thrust his hips against Aya’s, holding him down so he couldn’t move -- of course, Aya was actually much stronger and outweighed him by at least ten pounds, so maintaining the illusion was obviously at his discretion. It seemed to excite him, though.

“You want me to take you.” He bit Aya’s neck, gently at first, then violently. “That’s what you want, isn’t it, Aya?” He ground his erection into Aya’s, making them both gasp. “You don’t want me to give you any choice.”

He sucked hard on Aya’s throat, then shifted to the side and tugged Aya’s shirt off. Aya closed his eyes as Yoji ran his hands over his bare flesh, tossed his head back when Yoji pressed slightly on the fresh scar on his shoulder. Yoji didn’t quite like the expression on his face, but there was no going back now.

“Bite me again,” Aya said, his voice like gravel.

Hands digging into Aya’s arms, Yoji bit forcefully at the tender skin just beneath Aya’s ear, but the more he hurt Aya, the more he responded. “Now tell me,” Yoji hissed. “Tell me what else you want, Aya. Tell me what else you need.”

“Just fuck me,” Aya rasped. “Hard. Make me scream.”

Yoji could barely breathe. “God, yes,” he muttered, mainly to himself. He rolled off and furiously yanked down Aya’s pants. Aya’s boots were already off -- how the hell did he do that shit? Yoji quickly stripped off his own clothes, staring all the while at Aya’s cock, which was rock-hard.

He knelt over Aya’s chest, his erection brushing Aya’s lips.

“Suck it,” he said gruffly.

Aya just stared at him for several seconds, and he was briefly afraid he’d made the worst mistake of his life. But then the redhead opened his mouth and traced his tongue over the head of Yoji’s cock, and it was all he could do to keep from coming right there. Aya licked his lips, then slid his mouth up and down the shaft, brushing it occasionally with his teeth. Yoji groaned loudly, which Aya took as a cue to swallow him back and suck as hard as he could.

Yoji grunted and pulled away sharply. He closed his eyes for a moment. “Can’t take…any more of that.”

Aya smiled. It had a cruel edge.

Yoji flipped him over and started kissing his shoulders, working his way down his back. He ran his tongue down Aya’s shoulder blades, over his ribcage, and down past the swell of his ass, occasionally gnawing at the snow-white skin.

Finally, he swirled his tongue around the tightly clenched muscle of Aya’s asshole, holding his hips firmly in place. He licked and sucked and lightly dragged his teeth across the flesh until it opened to his tongue, which he thrust inside until Aya started pushing back against him. He spit on his fingers and slid them inside, feeling around for the sweet spot, relishing how Aya cried out each time he stroked it -- God, it felt good to have some control.

“Damn it, Yoji, fuck me!”

Yoji cursed as he moved into position, applied more saliva to ease the way a little, at least, and pushed himself inside. He watched, rapt, as Aya panted, pulling at his own hair in an apparent effort to master the sensations.

“How does it feel, Aya? I’ll tell you how you feel to me....” he paused, gasping as the muscles around him tightened. “Hotter than hell.”

Aya groaned; Yoji wondered if he was even making sense of what he was saying. “Tell me, Aya,” Yoji ground out urgently. He’d quickly built up a pounding rhythm that was driving him insane. He reached a hand under Aya’s hips and stroked him hard and fast.

Aya cried out as he came in Yoji’s hand.

“Oh, fuck, yes!” Yoji screamed, briefly incapacitated by the force of his own orgasm . He collapsed on top of Aya and lay there until his breathing and heart rate had slowed down and he could see again. His first conscious thought was “damn the torpedoes, I’m in love.”

Yoji had wanted to lie next to Aya and hold him, even though the corrugated metal floor of the delivery truck was not exactly conducive to full-on afterglow. Apparently anticipating this move, Aya had easily countered and maneuvered himself into the dominant position. They were sitting up, Aya holding him from behind, arms around Yoji’s waist and face pressed against his back. Which wasn’t bad at all. They remained naked, too -- better still. Aya hadn’t said anything for a long time, but he hadn’t moved, either, which spoke volumes. Probably.

Yoji was wandering between immoderate exultation and abject worry, resting occasionally in the valley of quiet satisfaction. He was aware that this half-way point between fulfillment and longing might be as good as it got with Aya. It would be unwise to say anything and break the spell.

But Yoji needed to know. Had it been good for him? Well, he’d come, so it was at least good, because it’s always good to come -- even for Aya, Yoji assumed. But Yoji wanted it to have been a fucking revelation. As it were.

It would definitely be a bad idea to ask, though. He would bask in this half-light of relative contentment and keep his mouth shut for once.

“Was it OK?” Yoji asked. Damn it!

Aya was silent for a long time. “It was...can we just not talk about it?”

“Oh.” Yoji felt ill.

Aya sighed, rubbed his cheek against Yoji’s shoulder. “Don’t. I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant -- Yoji, I just let someone fuck me.” He took a deep breath. “I just let you fuck me.”

Yoji was just starting to wonder if that wasn’t supposed to sound as bad as it did, either, when Aya spoke again. “It was...a big deal. To me,” he added quietly.

“To me, too. Which is why I want to talk about it.”

“OK. Just...later.” Aya sounded a bit panicky.

“I’m giving you 24 hours. Because ‘later’ encompasses an uncomfortably vast timeframe, and I don’t trust you.”

Aya just nodded, apparently realizing this was the best deal he was going to get. Yoji felt the motion against his shoulder.

“You do need to answer one yes-no question for me, though. Say either yes or no, whichever word comes to you first, before you start thinking about it. Did you get what you wanted out of it?”

Silence. “Aya, the parameters were clear. And they were simple. Yes or no?” More silence. Yoji sighed. Because if Aya didn’t know what he wanted, he wouldn’t necessarily know if he’d gotten it or not; and if he’d gotten what he wanted but didn’t realize it -- or if it really hadn’t been what he wanted at all -- Yoji would pay. He was already paying -- that last thought had given him a throbbing headache. Yoji bit his lip, forced his body to relax. He hadn’t lost anything yet -- after all, Aya was still holding him, still naked. Two out of three ain’t bad.

“Never mind,” he said, turning his head to kiss Aya. Who turned his head away. What the hell? “Now what?”

“I don’t like to kiss.”

“The hell you don’t. You liked it just fine a little while ago.”

Aya stood up abruptly, grabbed his clothes and was half-dressed by the time Yoji realized what was going on. He looked up into those impossibly colored eyes, searching for guidance. Searching for reassurance, too, although he knew he wasn’t likely to find any. But this was starting to hurt. A lot.

Aya paused in his efforts to untangle his shirt -- his pants were already on -- and slowly kneeled down next to Yoji. “You know those optical illusions where you see one thing, then if you look at it long enough, you see something else? You know, it’s a woman’s face, it’s a woman’s face -- oh, it’s a table?”

Yoji nodded slowly, stupefied.

“Well, a lot of things are like that." Aya ran his knuckles gently across Yoji’s cheek, then stood up, shaking the shirt out and putting it on as he slipped through the curtains to the front of the truck. Moments later, the engine rumbled and they were pulling out of the lot and onto the highway.

Yoji staggered back into the kitchen of the Koneko a little after 7. Physically, he was a couple of steps behind Aya; metaphysically, the distance was greater. He was confused. Befuddled, even. Worried. Irritated. Deeply, truly tired.

After Aya’d forsaken him for the second time in one day, Yoji had just stayed in the back of the truck, feeling sorry for himself. He’d gotten dressed and spent some time trying to unravel Aya’s koan -- which was, of course, redundant. After they’d dropped off the truck, though, he hadn’t had much choice about sitting next to Aya -- although he had briefly wondered if bungee cords would hold him onto the roof of the Porsche. At least then he’d have been able to smoke.

He’d expected an icy silence, but his baffling romantic adversary hadn’t actually seemed distant or unfriendly. Yoji couldn’t say how he’d decided that, since Aya had not disappointed re: the silence. It hadn’t actually mattered that much; Yoji was too exhausted -- physically and metaphysically -- to wonder about it any more. For the moment.

Ken and Omi were already up, having breakfast at the kitchen table. Yoji closed his eyes, inhaling the uniquely comforting aroma of coffee, nature’s perfect food.

“Any information to report?” asked Omi, his smile warm and welcoming. He was a bizarrely amiable little destroyer of life.

Yoji opened his mouth to say nobody had shown up, but Aya spoke first.

“No. I heard the targets arrive at about four, but we missed them because we were fucking in the back of the truck. Hey, are those donuts?”

Omi spit his coffee across the room. Yoji had never seen an actual spit-take -- it was just as funny as it was supposed to be.

Ken picked up the piece of apple fritter he’d just dropped and said, “Eclairs, too. Got them on my way back from the gym.”

Aya nodded appreciatively, grabbed one and shoved most of it into his mouth. He turned to look at Omi, who was still openly gaping, then at Yoji. “What?”

Yoji shook his head, attempting to arrange his face into a vague smile. “Oh, nothing. Time for me to go to bed, I think.” He headed up the stairs. Snagging another donut, Aya followed. Once they’d safely negotiated the stairs, Yoji turned and grabbed Aya’s arm. “Sleep with me. No talking, no kissing. Just sleep with me.”

Aya raised an eyebrow, stuffed the remaining half of the second donut into his mouth, and nodded.

Yoji tried to restrain the volume of his sigh of relief. Gallantly, he opened his bedroom door and gestured for Aya to walk in first. Aya looked as if he thought it might be an elaborate trap. Yoji sighed again, much less quietly. He also let the door slam a little behind him.

Aya took a moment to wipe the crumbs from his chin and chest and then lay down on Yoji’s bed, fully dressed, staring up at the ceiling.

Yoji shook his head. This relationship was like some kind of aphasiac Dada experiment. “You know, I’m willing to accept that most of your social malfunctioning is due to cluelessness rather than actual malice. But when I’m about to touch you, could you at least pretend you don’t feel like we’re re-enacting the dental torture scene from ‘Marathon Man?”

Aya scooted over to leave more room.

Yoji made a point of sighing as loudly as possible. He pulled his shirt over his head and threw it toward the corner, then slowly peeled off his jeans. He wasn’t making a show of it; he was just worn-out and didn’t want to fall on his ass in front of Aya while trying to extract himself from his own clothing. He tossed the pants in the general direction of the shirt and turned toward the bed.

Aya had been watching; was still watching. His breathing was ragged and his pupils were dilated. There was also a sizeable bulge in his pants.

Yoji figured he’d probably get used to Aya eventually, if they lived that long. He lay down and turned to face him. Aya’s gaze, which had been moving lustfully over his abs and chest, drifted up to meet Yoji’s eyes. That one feverish look hardened Yoji’s dick and erased all resentful thoughts from his mind. He reached over -- slowly, deliberately -- to run his thumb across Aya’s lip. Aya met it with the tip of his tongue.

Yoji moved closer and slowly unbuttoned Aya’s shirt, then shifted to get a better angle for the pants. He undid the button and zipper with one hand while firmly cupping Aya’s erection with the other. Aya’s hips bucked and he moaned softly. Yoji slid down to pull the fabric over Aya’s hips and down his legs. Then, slowly, so he could get out of the way in case Aya freaked out, Yoji crawled back up the bed and settled against his beloved. Aya felt strong and sleek and dangerous, practically vibrating with restrained power and hunger.

Aya leaned over him, resting on his elbows, which were braced on either side of Yoji’s ribs. One arm slid around Yoji’s waist and pressed up, forcing him to arch his back, tilting his hips against Aya’s at an angle that felt very good, indeed. Aya’s other hand slid up, stopping briefly to stroke Yoji’s shoulder before moving to hold the back of his neck and forcing Yoji’s head back.

The position made Yoji feel almost uncomfortably submissive -- he hadn’t expected Aya to make him so vulnerable so quickly. He didn’t fight it, though. He’d given in weeks ago, that night Aya had driven him home after the mission. Fighting it now would just be stubborn, and God knew they didn’t need any more of that.

Still, Yoji -- who had been naked in a surprising variety of situations -- had never realized it was possible to feel this naked.

He looked directly into Aya’s eyes. He’d been avoiding it because he was afraid of what he’d see -- or, to be specific, what he wouldn’t see. It wasn’t quite like that, though. Yoji couldn’t interpret most of the storm he was looking into, but he had more than enough experience to recognize lust when he saw it. Lust, and a fierce, overwhelming need.

Hell, yes.

“Aya, I know I said no kissing, but...”

Aya leaned down and kissed him with abandon. It went straight to Yoji’s crotch and forced small, helpless whimpers from his throat. That’s it, baby, Yoji thought. I knew this was in there somewhere.

Yoji turned his concentration to breaking the paralysis Aya’s onslaught had induced. He ran both hands down Aya’s back and over his ass, feeling the firm, dense muscle. He drew his legs up over Aya’s upper back, spreading himself beneath Aya’s hips wantonly. Making an unmistakable invitation.

Aya growled and shifted up onto his knees, sliding a hand over Yoji’s ass and fingering his opening, swirling his middle finger just inside, then adding a second, pushing them in up to the second knuckle. Aya kneaded lightly, dipping in just the tip of his thumb once Yoji had opened up a bit. The way he moved those fingers was driving Yoji mad.

“Do you want my cock?” Aya whispered it into Yoji’s ear. “I want to....” his breath caught and he groaned loudly as Yoji writhed against him. “Lube. Do you....”

Yoji felt for the hand cream on the nightstand. He had tubes stashed all over the house -- floristry kept his hands chapped if he wasn’t vigilant. He flipped the top open and put the tube in Aya’s hand.

“Get on your knees in front of me,” Aya hissed urgently. It took Yoji a few moments to interpret the command -- it helped when Aya pulled his fingers out of his ass -- and then a few more to disentangle himself and comply.

Aya was kneeling, fisting his own erection. He pulled Yoji back against him and guided him down onto his cock. Yoji took in the head and had to stop for a few deep breaths before sliding down the length. Aya leaned back, supporting himself on one arm, and grabbed Yoji’s cock, jerking him with a firm grip, like he meant business. Yoji leaned back against Aya, who seemed to have no trouble keeping his balance and holding Yoji up. Yoji was impressed. He wondered what his partner would be able to do when he wasn’t wounded.

Then Aya started thrusting, and Yoji didn’t have another coherent thought until after he came. That thought was “snooze or die.” He pulled a surprisingly tractable Aya to him and fell asleep using the redhead’s shoulder as a pillow.

Yoji was having trouble waking up, a sure sign he’d slept too long -- or not long enough. Of course, it could mean he was catching a cold; or maybe the weather wasn’t agreeing with him.... He definitely felt too warm. might be somehow related to the unfamiliar presence of someone bigger and stronger than him, lying against his back and holding him tight. Throwing off heat like a radiator, too.

Oh, that was Aya...which meant, by process of deduction, that the enormous hard-on wedged against his ass belonged to....

Yoji’s eyes popped open. Careful not to break the embrace, Yoji rolled over and put his arms around Aya’s waist, slid a hand down to squeeze Aya’s ass. Still asleep, Aya thrust against Yoji, grinding into him. Yoji’s cock leaped fully to life. He pulled Aya close and started kissing the other man’s neck, jaw, ear...Aya was waking up but still accommodating.

“Oh, God, Aya, you’re....” Yoji licked his ear. “So....” He signed against Aya’s mouth and lightly bit his lower lip. “Beautiful.”

“Mmmm,” Aya murmured sleepily. “Are you going to compare me to a summer’s day? Am I more lovely and more temperate? that again....”

“You certainly are temperate,” Yoji said, giving Aya’s balls another light squeeze. “And lovely. Yes. More....”

Aya moaned quietly, lying back and spreading his legs to give Yoji easier access. He made a pleased little humming sound. “How about more fair? Am I more fair?”

“More everything.”

Aya threw back his head and moaned as Yoji started pumping him in earnest.

“Don’t know...aah...what scares me more....” Aya choked off a groan. “That you seem to mean it...oh, fuck yes, just like that...or that you might not.”

“Oh, I mean it.” Yoji picked up the rhythm Aya needed and brought him close to completion. “It’s just the way it is. Might as well be afraid of the dark at night or the waves on the ocean....”

“Lots of people are afraid of those things, Yoji.... Oh, God -- if you keep doing that, I’m going to come....”

“That’s the point.”

Aya closed his eyes and let himself go. His deep, quiet groan thrilled Yoji; in fact, Yoji was so happy he wanted to giggle. He stifled it, though, because he wanted to come more, and to do that, he had to avoid provoking Aya to murder. Aya was unarmed, but that would only slow him down so much.

“So, you’re a force of nature?” Aya asked, still panting a little. “Is that what you tell the ladies?”

Yoji frowned -- this sounded like an area of conversation to be avoided. “How about if you reciprocate with the hand-job action before going into a full-blown critique of my sweet nothings?”

“As it were,” Aya snorted. But he complied, and ah, that was so much better. Aya had such good hands, and, as he’d proven so many times on their missions, he excelled at figuring out what worked. Quickly. Yoji allowed himself the luxury of calling out Aya’s name as he came, to make up for all the times he’d had to bite it back.

Catching his breath, Yoji gasped, “Fuck, you’re good at that.”

Aya looked ever-so-slightly perplexed. “Well, it isn’t difficult to figure it out -- I have one too; I know how they work.”

Was it a joke? Wasn’t it a joke? Yoji had no idea, so it was safer not to laugh.

“Um...right. Well, a lot of people who presumably deal with their own dicks all the time don’t seem to know what to do with someone else’s. Surely you’ve noticed this.”

Aya grunted his assent. “Fine. I’ll make sure Kritiker adds it to my profile: Performs adequately on hand-job maneuvers.”

“OK, that was definitely a joke. Maybe you could carry a little flag that says ‘humor’ on it, and you could wave it when you’re saying something funny.”

Aya frowned slightly. Yoji was going to let it go, but the frown deepened.

“What’s wrong?”

“Leave me alone. I’m experiencing angst and ennui.”

And ennui, you say.”

“Yes, ennui. It adds texture.”


“I like to think of ennui as the pretzels in the Chex Party Mix of my despair.”

Yoji smiled. “I really, really like you.”

Aya rolled his eyes. “Please don’t start singing again.”

“Well, if you can think of something else I could be doing with my mouth...maybe something we’d both enjoy more....”

“We need to.... Do women actually like those kinds of lines?”

“Umm.... It wasn’t a line, per se. But, well...yeah.”

Aya thought about it and shook his head. “You’re obviously procuring some fairly indiscriminate women. No wonder you go through them like water.”

Nope, still not a line of conversation likely to go anywhere Yoji wanted to be. “Aya, forget about the women. The women don’t matter.”

Aya cocked an eyebrow. “Not to you, maybe.”

“There aren’t as ridiculously many women as I may have led you to believe. That whole cartoon-character playboy thing is kind of a joke for me. It pisses everybody off, so I keep doing it.”

“How many women have you slept with?”

Why did this keep happening? Yoji was known for his glib charm, his ability to talk to anyone about anything. But every time he tried to talk to Aya, the whole thing went completely to hell in 15 minutes or less, guaranteed or it’s free. “Aya, I have a lot of perfectly good reasons for refusing to answer that question. So we’re going to stop talking about it.”

“We weren’t talking about it. We were getting up and getting ready for the mission tonight.”

“What mission tonight?

“We have to go back and do the surveillance again.” Aya spoke slowly and articulated carefully, as if he’d decided Yoji were mentally deficient.

Oh. When the hell had Aya had time to plan that out? Driving home this morning, probably, while Yoji was busy being hurt and confused. Yoji was beginning to see the advantages of being able to pretend you didn’t really have feelings. He’d have to try it some time.

“Ah. And you already set this up?”

Aya stared at him, clearly trying to figure out if Yoji really were a complete dolt or if he might have some other agenda. At least he hadn’t just assumed. “When we dropped off the truck this morning, I told the guy we’d need it again tonight. You were there.”

Oh. “Oh. I was...busy.”

“I hadn’t realized the pouting took up so much brain capacity. I’ll keep that in mind for the future.”

Well, that was just uncalled for. “I see,” Yoji said, his tone frosty. “When do you want to leave, then?”

Aya looked confused. And, perhaps, a little hurt. “In an hour. We need to get something to eat, and” -- he smiled hesitantly -- “take a shower. Not in that order.”

Yoji couldn’t help wanting to twist the screw. He nodded in a businesslike manner. “Fine. You go first. I’ll meet you downstairs in an hour.”

Aya’s smile wavered, then disappeared. He nodded. His jaw jutted forward a bit, and his mouth was held in a tight line -- definitely hurt. Yoji felt better and worse at the same time -- the bit of revenge was sweet like rotten fruit. Clearly feeling awkward, Aya got dressed briskly and left quickly, without saying another word. Yoji closed his eyes and wondered, for the millionth time in recent history, what the hell he was doing. Other than trying to fit a porcupine into a cookie jar.

Aya was waiting for Yoji in the kitchen. He didn’t say anything when Yoji got there, just turned on his heel and went into the garage. Yoji groaned. This was partially his fault, but that didn’t make him feel any less sorry for himself.

No conversation was forthcoming when he got to the car, either. They drove in silence, picked up the truck in silence, drove back to the outskirts of nowhere in silence, sat in the parking lot in silence. Yoji was irritated; in fact, he caught himself reaching up to play with his hair. As a kid he’d twirled the soft curls around his index finger, a nervous habit for which he’d gotten no end of shit. The urge only returned now in dire situations where he had no cigarettes.

Yoji had once been injected with a drug -- in a decidedly non-recreational capacity -- that had made him feel as if insects were crawling under his skin. If he were forced to choose between that and the current situation, he wasn’t sure which one he’d pick. Yoji’s instinct was to talk. It was what he did. Yoji was not one of the silent, brooding loners he often fell for. Yoji was affectionate, he hated to be alone, and he talked. It almost defined him. He usually tried to censor the chatter a little to avoid annoying Aya; tonight, however, he was trying to avoid venting his anger in a way that would chase Aya away for good. Part of him was actually desperate to hurt Aya again, but contrary to the opinion of certain teammates, Yoji had enough discipline to keep from working against his own interests. Mostly. Of course, chasing Aya away was arguably in his best interest....

But, oh God, Aya was good in bed. He had a body to make the angels weep, and he fucked like...Yoji became aware of a painful tightness in his chest. Elsewhere, too.

He turned to stare at Aya’s profile in the moonlight, tried to block the flashback of last night, when Aya had sat in his lap and sighed so sweetly against his neck.

Aya was unhappy. He sat stiffly -- of course, he might just have a sword down the back of his coat -- and stared carefully straight ahead, the set of his mouth and stain around his eyes telling Yoji that the redhead was not oblivious or uncaring, and that he wasn’t focused entirely on the mission.

Yoji suddenly didn’t want to hurt him anymore.

He leaned over and gently kissed the corner of Aya’s mouth, provoking a startled and uncertain expression. Hungry. He kept staring straight ahead for several seconds, obviously afraid. Yoji felt that pain in his chest again. Slowly, grudgingly, Aya turned to look at him. “Yoji...”

Yoji put a finger to Aya’s lips. “Shut up. I need to tell you something. Don’t kill me, but...I love you.”

Aya’s eyes went wide. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. He turned away from Yoji again, closing his eyes tight as if helpless before the force of the sudden headache Yoji’s words had triggered. “No,” he whispered. Then, louder, more forcefully: “No, you don’t.”

“Look, Aya, it’s OK. I’m not asking you for anything -- I just wanted you to know.”

Aya whirled around. “It is not OK,” he hissed.

Wow. Yoji’s disappointment with the distinct lack of enthusiasm was pretty much eclipsed by the realization that here, right next to him, in an enclosed space, Aya -- who was presumably armed and certainly very dangerous -- was completely losing his shit. Yoji knew he wasn’t qualified to deal with this, but it wasn’t like he had time to call in one of Kritiker’s bomb teams to diffuse it for him, either.

He decided to pull the red wire and see what happened. “Aya, calm the fuck down. I don’t expect you to love me back. I don’t expect anything. I just....”

No,” Aya roared. It seemed to startle him, too, and he visibly grappled for composure. “I’m going to take a look at the docking bay. Stay here.” Resistance would be futile; he was already halfway out the door.

“What if something happens while you’re over there?” Yoji asked.

“I’ll take care of it. Stay in the truck.” Aya closed the door quietly. Yoji watched, but he never saw the man cross the lot or enter the building.

Yoji stretched a little and sighed. That just hadn’t gone well at all. He hadn’t expected a marriage proposal or anything, but Aya’s reaction seemed a trifle overblown. The good news was that the semi-erection he’d had all evening seemed to have finally gone away.

Fucking hell -- Aya was absolutely demented. If only he weren’t so.... Yoji closed his eyes and saw Aya covered in sweat and completely open to him. Ah -- welcome back, erection.

Yoji forced himself to think about something else. Going off alone had been incredibly stupid -- Aya must have been really shaken. Yoji needed to come up with a plan. They had no idea if anyone would be using the loading dock or not, or how many people might be showing up or how well-trained they’d be. Aya was in there with no backup and possibly no weapon, and they had no way of communicating if anything went wrong. Yoji corrected his original assessment -- Aya was being fucking stupid.

Yoji was running his fingers over his watch, fingers itching to pull out the wire and save Aya from the threat he’d just conjured up. He was also smiling. Aya was so passionate. Bat-shit crazy, but hot. Beyond hot. Molten. His body was a religious experience. The way Aya had fucked him....

Hold on, that was definitely a car. No, it was three...four...a bunch of cars. Pulling into the lot and heading directly into the loading dock. The lights in the bay came on. It was actually pretty dim in there, but to Yoji it looked bright as day. Fuck.

Yoji continued to wait in the truck like a good dog. Aya knows what he’s doing, Aya knows what he’s doing, Aya knows what he’s doing.... Yoji repeated it under his breath like a mantra. He was pretty sure it was OK; Aya would certainly have heard the cars too, and nobody could play disappearing ninja like Aya.

Then the trucks started arriving. One big, military-looking one. A second big, military-looking one. A large van. People were crawling all over the loading bay.

Fucking hell. If that clueless psycho had known what he was doing, he never would have left the truck in the first place.

“Maybe I should just stay in the truck anyway,” Yoji thought. He was pretty sure he was safe here, parked in the middle of about 30 identical vehicles at least half a city block from the loading zone. Yoji wasn’t even close enough to see any details. Oh, yeah; he should break out the binocular thingy....

Right -- as the professionals liked to say, this sucked ass. And not in a good way.

There were at least fifty people in there, and they were not milling around haphazardly. They were transferring weapons -- alarming weapons -- from one truck to another. They were having serious discussions. They were patrolling the loading bay in a purposeful manner.

“I’ll handle it. Just stay in the truck.” Yoji could hear Aya’s derogatory tone in his head as clearly as if his teammate were still sitting right next to him. It was especially galling because, even as he started readying himself to disobey that order, he was 98% sure it was the wrong thing to do. Not only had Aya proven many times that he more than knew how to take care of himself, but one man would be more difficult to spot than two. Especially when that one man was already in place, and the second would have to creep past a fucking legion of lawbreakers to get in. What was the technical term -- a murder of mercenaries? A bolus of bad guys? Yoji shook his head to clear it of excess whimsy.

The thing was, if by some fluke they did find Aya, Yoji needed to be close enough to help. It probably wouldn’t do any good, but he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t try. Yoji sighed.

The trick, of course, would be getting himself over there and in position. The set-up wasn’t ideal, but Yoji’s skulking skills were pretty damned good. Maybe not quite in Aya’s league, but still first-rate.

Yoji left the truck and crept across the parking lot. He’d seen a couple of men fan out to search the back of the building, but he should be able to take them out easily enough if he had to. It would be better to avoid them, though, since someone would notice if they didn’t return.

He found an employee’s entrance that looked like it didn’t lead directly into the bay and had an absurdly simple lock to boot. Yoji was inside in just a few moments, undetected. He was standing in a small office area, completely screened from the action. He slipped into the room in front of him and found himself in a small, dark office with an enormous window looking out over the loading dock. Not bad, Yoji thought, considering he’d had no advance information. He gave himself several minutes to catalogue the contents and structure of the bay.

And now it was time for a little game he enjoyed playing now and again to amuse himself. He called it “What Would Aya Do?” Pretending to be Aya, Yoji stood up straighter, jutted out his jaw, and slipped into the shadows near the window so he wouldn’t be betrayed by the light reflecting off his hair. One with the darkness, Aya would calmly assess each and every threat, Yoji decided, and then do something theatrical and dangerous. Yoji looked again at the scene before him and searched for the bold, crazy way to approach the situation.

And there it was, a wide beam running across the bay about two floors up, maybe a third of the way across the floor. It was only accessible by about 40 feet of I-beam that a tall man could just about grab if he first climbed a huge stack of crates at the very back of the bay. The area was dark and shadowy and reasonably far away from what he wanted to stay far away from. And the main beam was wide enough to more or less obscure a crouching figure if anyone on the ground were to look up.

Yoji allowed himself a tight, predatory smile as he melted out of the office and along the back wall of the bay. Playing Aya was fun. Did Aya have this much fun being Aya? Sure didn’t look like it.

Quickly and quietly scaling the mountain of boxes, Yoji caught hold of the I-beam, but only by standing on his tip-toes. Which meant Aya would have had to jump for it. Yoji refused to acknowledge the slight surge of nausea engendered by that thought, or to look down and contemplate just how much of a fall it would be -- that would violate the rules of WWAD. Aya would simply do what needed to be done, smoothly and efficiently, the thought of cracking his skull open on the floor far beneath and dying as bad guys pointed and laughed never entering his head.

Yoji took a deep breath and pulled himself up as close to the beam as he could; then he swung his legs up and scrabbled on top, holding on for dear life. Not exactly the graceful flip he’d seen Aya execute under similar circumstances, but they couldn’t all be closet gymnasts.

Now for the hard part. Yoji carefully, oh so carefully, stood up and concentrated on balancing. He just needed to walk across to the main beam, and he’d be set. For the moment. It hadn’t looked like such a great distance, from down below. Aya, of course, would simply stride right out there. Yoji started walking, thinking that being Aya was actually a hell of a mental and physical workout.

He couldn’t stifle a distinctly un-Aya-like sigh of intense relief when he stepped off the I-beam. The main beam was about two feet across, which felt kind of cramped at that height, but it was positively spacious in comparison with Yoji’s previous accommodations. Now, where the hell was Aya?

Yoji heard the quietest of thumps behind him and turned to see Aya, crouching, having jumped down from somewhere above. While impressed, Yoji had to roll his eyes. He would never win at WWAD because Aya was a fucking maniac.

Leaning carefully against Yoji and whispering, barely audibly, into his ear, Aya hissed, “What the fuck are you doing here?” He looked extravagantly angry.

“I came to help you,” Yoji whispered back.

I don’t need any help.”

“You will if they notice you.”

“Unless you make them, they aren’t going to notice me.”

Yoji looked up into the darkness from whence Aya had sprung and decided the man might have a point. “Well, when I saw the size of the force, I figured....”

“Oh, I know what you figured,” Aya cut him off. “Well, we can’t stay here. It’s below the line of lights -- they could see us from the right angle. You’re going to have to climb.”

Yoji felt that Aya was exaggerating the danger, but when playing WWAD, it was probably best to defer to the master. Yoji reluctantly followed him back out onto the I-beam. When they got close to the wall, though, Aya seemed to disappear. What the...? Yoji looked around, leaning against the wall for support.

Aya’s upside-down head appeared about a foot above him, looking as if it were just suspended in darkness. Yoji’s well-honed reflexes kept him from falling to his immediate death, but he was fairly sure the episode had shortened his life by several years.

“There’s a grating you can climb about six inches to your left. It’ll bring you to a catwalk about ten feet up,” whispered Aya’s eerie disembodied head. Then it disappeared.

Yoji shuddered, then looked around some more. Ah -- there was always a reasonable explanation. Aya had chosen to provide directions while hanging upside down by his knees off a catwalk about 30 feet in the air. Yoji nodded to himself. Yup; clearly he had a long way to go before he’d be able to play WWAD with real flair.

Yoji felt for the grating and found it, cursing its flimsiness and his own generous nature for having given a damn if anything happened to Aya in the first place. He climbed to the top of the insubstantial thing and looked for the catwalk. Where was it? Surely Aya didn’t mean that tiny strip of metal that looked like it was held up by erector-set parts?

“Come on,” Aya hissed.

Apparently he did. Yoji grabbed for it, none too pleased by the way it swayed, and pulled himself up, his hatred for Aya keeping him focused. He crouched on the catwalk, holding tightly to the slender support rails, and swore softly until his heart rate slowed. Aya was crouching next to him, looking nonchalant. Well, irritated and capable of unspeakable violence at any moment -- Aya’s version of nonchalant. And the bastard wasn’t even touching the railing, Yoji noticed. He fought an urge to stick out his tongue.

Aya leaned against him and whispered, “You should have stayed in the truck.”

“I’m beginning to think so myself. But it’s a little late for that, so let’s just move on,

“It’s a good thing I came in. I got a lot of information I’d have missed if I’d stayed outside.”

“Oh, when you get emotional and deviate from the plan, it’s a stroke of genius, but when I do it, I should have stayed in the truck. Do you think I’m a complete fuck-up? Is that what you think?”

“That isn’t what I said, Yoji.”

“Well, you sure as hell implied it.”

“Yoji, stop bitching and let’s concentrate on getting out of here alive, OK?”

Bitching? Well, excuse me for not being sufficiently steely and stoic. No wonder you got so pissed off back in the truck. I know what you’re thinking: Having a physical weakness for a loser like me is bad enough; it’s too much to bear if the loser actually cares about you, huh?”

“You don’t know what I’m thinking. You don’t know anything but what I tell you.”

“You don’t know how much you tell me.”

“Yoji, now is not the time for this. Remember all that perceived danger you ran in here to save me from? Still there. If we keep arguing like fishwives, they’re going to find us.”

“Yes, Aya, I realize that. The problem is that no time is the time for this.” Yoji raised his voice slightly. “Talk to me, Aya.”

Aya’s eyes widened. “Are you threatening me? Are you threatening to expose us if I won’t discuss our relationship with you? In the middle of a mission?”

Yoji smiled slowly. “So, Aya, how much don’t you want to talk about it?”

Aya looked flabbergasted -- which, Yoji decided, made all this idiocy worthwhile. “So what’s it gonna be, Aya? Yes or no?” Yoji was pretty sure he saw a glimmer of respect flicker deep in Aya’s eyes before he closed them and took a deep breath. “Yoji, I....” He trailed off and shrugged, that one-sided shrug reminding Yoji that Aya was still healing from a gunshot wound and shouldn’t really be doing this at all -- which is why they’d only been on a fucking surveillance mission in the first place.

“I want you. You know that,” Aya finally said. “I just...wish I didn’t.”

Well, Yoji had asked. Why did he keep asking?

“Any chance you could elaborate on that?” Yoji barely remembered to keep his voice down.

Aya shook his head slowly. “No. Not here.” Yoji recognized that stubborn look and realized he’d gotten as much as he was getting out of Aya for the moment.

Yoji sighed. “All right. But if you get yourself killed just to avoid talking about this, I’m going to be pissed off.”

Aya smiled grimly.

Yoji looked down and saw the beam he’d been standing on earlier. Aya had jumped down there? He really was out of his God-damned mind.

The ride home was much like the ride out -- quiet. Tense. Yoji was thoroughly demoralized. They walked into the Koneko at about three a.m., and Aya went straight to the basement to write the mission report. Yoji dragged himself upstairs, already feeling a little sore from all the unusual climbing activity. He went straight to his room, lay down on his bed, and settled in for some serious self-pity.

Except that he seemed to have under-evaluated his level of tiredness -- brooding was hard work. Made a person tired, especially on top of all the climbing. Almost immediately, he started drifting off into a troubled sleep.

From which he was woken an indeterminate amount of time later by a scream. He was able to ascertain almost immediately that it was his own; his heart was pounding and his throat burned from holding back bile. He’d had variations on this dream many times, but this was...too much.

He sat up, cradling his head in his arms, trying to calm himself down. He noticed the sound of the shower, then glanced at the clock on the nightstand -- it was a little after four. Must be Aya.

His head was throbbing, he realized. Maybe he could just go in there and get some ibuprofen. Maybe Aya would talk to him. Or, more likely, yell at and reject him. Well, whatever Aya might dish out was better than lying in his room, replaying those unspeakable images over and over until he drove himself mad. That settled, he flopped out of bed and set off for the bathroom.

Finding the door unlocked, Yoji just walked in. “I just need something for a headache,” he called, opening up the medicine cabinet.

“Don’t you have ibuprofen in your room?”

Of course he did. They all did; they went through cases of the stuff. As usual, Aya was resistant to all attempts at casual interaction. Yoji stared desperately at the shower curtain, willing Aya to come through for him.

“Well?” Aya’s voice was flat.

“Oh. Sorry. I got stuck.” Yoji ran his fingers through his hair. “I...had a bad dream. A very bad dream.” Might as well just throw himself upon the mercy of the court, if it had any.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

And damned if Aya hadn’t surprised him yet again. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise him any more that Aya kept surprising him. That’s what Aya did. There was a word for that, something about a nun playing a drum.... Oh, yeah -- Aya was a conundrum.

“Well, yes and no,” Yoji finally answered. “I’d rather just forget it, you know? But I don’t know if I can.”

“Sometimes it helps to talk.” Aya paused, and Yoji could picture the tight little half-smile which signaled that Aya was in on the joke. “Not that I’d know first-hand. But I seem to remember someone telling me that.”

Yoji smiled. “Someone brave and insightful, I bet. Also tall and good-looking.” Suddenly, a scene from his dream returned unbidden, wiping the smile from his face. “I don’t know if I can talk about it. Not yet. Besides, you probably don’t want to hear about it.” Hesitantly, he added, “You were...part of it.”

Aya turned off the water and got out of the shower, not bothering to towel off as he approached Yoji. He searched Yoji’s eyes, his expression as gentle and caring as Yoji had ever seen it. “Is that part of the reason you’re so upset? Because I was in it?”

Yoji nodded, unable to speak as he watched rivulets of water drip over Aya’s finely cut muscles.

“Then I should apologize,” Aya said softly. With no further preamble, he sank to his knees, yanked down Yoji’s sweatpants and, looking into his eyes, took Yoji’s soft, limp cock into his mouth and started alternately sucking and rolling it around on his tongue. It responded immediately, and Aya started moving his head up and down on it, perfect suction, perfect rhythm, finally swallowing it against the back of his throat. Yoji didn’t want to come immediately -- he wanted to enjoy the experience while it lasted, and there was also an issue of professional pride -- but he was tired and emotional and his brain was chanting “your dick is in Aya’s mouth in Aya’s mouth in Aya’s mouth Aya’s mouth Aya’s....”

It wasn’t a mind-blowing orgasm, even though, as he’d suspected, Aya did indeed give good head. It was, however, an extremely welcome release. Yoji slid down to the floor and put his arms around Aya, leaning forward to rest his head against a slippery shoulder. Aya pulled Yoji into a wet hug and whispered into his ear. “Can you tell me about it now?”

Yoji swallowed hard, and haltingly began speaking into Aya’s hair. It helped that he couldn’t see his face -- he wasn’t sure he’d actually be able to say it if he were looking into those eyes.

“I was walking down this long, dark hallway. I had this horrible sense of dread as I got closer to this door at the end of it, and I started hearing.... You were crying out. God, I didn’t want to open that door... I didn’t want to see.... But I had to. So, I finally walked into the room. And you were....” Yoji broke off. It was too horrible -- he couldn’t go on.

Aya stroked his hair and murmured sympathetically, holding him tightly. “It’s OK. Tell me.”

“You were....” Yoji broke off, shuddering, then forced himself to continue. “You were with Omi.”

There was a moment of silence while Aya waited for the rest of it. When Yoji showed no sign of continuing, Aya prompted, “I was with Omi and....”

“You know. With Omi.”

Aya struggled to put it all together. Then Yoji felt him stiffen; his hand pulled away from Yoji’s hair. “I was...with Omi? You mean sex? You dreamed I was having sex with Omi?” His voice had shifted from quietly reassuring to quietly menacing.

Yoji missed quietly reassuring. And the hair-stroking had been really nice, too.

Aya moved away, watching Yoji with an expectant, hostile look.

“Yes,” Yoji said. He couldn’t keep from whining. “It was horrible!”

Aya stood up, muttering under his breath, the invective indistinct but still chilling. Aya brusquely dried himself off and pulled on his pants. Whirling around, he hissed, “You son of a bitch.

Yoji slowly stood up, prepared to defend himself. Then he realized his pants were down around his knees and jerked them up -- hard to look like you might pose a credible threat when your pants are down around your knees and your freshly sucked dick is hanging out. How often he’d thought that....

“You God-damned whoring cretin! How dare you....”

“Look, Aya, it’s not like I wanted to dream about you having sex with Omi. I’m a victim here, too.”

Aya looked like he wanted to kill him, slowly and elaborately -- maybe drain his blood and make pudding. Yoji sighed and forced himself to relax his defensive posture. He held up his hands in supplication for good measure. “I’m sorry -- really. I shouldn’t have told you. I was so disturbed myself, I wasn’t thinking about how much it would upset you.”

Aya’s shoulders relaxed, and his expression slid into neutral. He closed his eyes, visibly gathering his limited reserves of charity, then he looked at Yoji and nodded. “OK. You were freaked out. I understand. Let’s just...never speak of this again, all right?” He shook his head, radiating distaste. “Me fucking Omi,” he muttered. “I can’t believe....”

“Actually, Omi was fucking you.”

The blood drained from Aya’s face. His eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed in fury. He didn’t really move, but everything about him suddenly projected hostile intent. “I....” Aya choked out the word, then stopped. “I can’t say it. You...I should kill you.”

The only way to take a statement like that from Aya was seriously. Yoji started strategizing about how to escape. Aya stood between him and the door. They were both unarmed, which gave Aya the advantage. Yoji eyed the towel. He could use it to smash the mirror, but that would give Aya a weapon as well. Maybe he could use the towel to choke him, if he caught him off guard....

“I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” Aya said. His voice was now deadly calm. “I trusted you.”

And just like that, the spell of fear was broken. “Oh, you did not,” Yoji snarled. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”

“What are you talking about?” Aya’s confusion appeared to have momentarily distracted him from his murderous intent, at least.

“Trust. I’m talking about trust,” Yoji said, warming to the unaccustomed pleasure of righteous indignation. “I told you I loved you and you acted like I’d ordered you to set yourself on fire. Fuck you! You don’t know a fucking thing about trust!”

Yoji took a couple of deep breaths and felt the rage desert him as quickly as it had arrived, leaving him with nothing but an amped-up adrenaline headache. Also, Aya was just standing there, staring at him, which couldn’t be good. Ah, well.... He’d given it a shot, and his immanent death would take care of the headache, at least....

“I don’t understand you,” Aya finally said. His voice was flat, and his face betrayed nothing.

“Well, right back at you, you crack-headed freak.”

Aya narrowed his eyes.

Ah, there was the anger. “Don’t make me kill you,” Yoji growled.

Aya smiled a small, dangerous-looking little smile, then took a step closer. He grabbed Yoji’s cock, which was already half-hard from the arguing, and gave it a little squeeze. “Are you going to shoot me with your gun?”

Yoji gurgled helplessly.

Aya’s smile broadened. “Well, you can try,” he said, turning and walking out of the room.

©Kinukitty. Used by permission. Characters owned by Project Weiss.

1 comment:

glasgowtremontaine said...

So charming! So droll! I enjoyed this greatly. And the dream-windup so artfully abuses the fanfic comfort/hurt genre in favor of the bratty sex genre ... some utopias can only be achieved by crashing one utopia smack into another.

R., Loot & I miss you. Oh, and I think Siah was in my dream.